The New York Times is reporting that Sarah Palin appears to be serious about launching a presidential campaign. This comes after the twittersphere was lit up last night with the news that Palin has a brand new movie about herself that she’ll soon debute in Iowa. Obvious winners if the Sage of Wasilla forsakes her career as a reality television star and returns to electoral politics? Everyone who writes about or broadcasts presidential elections and cares above all about getting lots of clicks and eyeballs! She’s a proven audience and news generator.
But what about her chances for the nomination? To get to the point: she’s a plausible nominee, but has some severe structural problems. Here’s a quick overview:
On the plus side, Palin still has something that, as far as I can tell, only Ron Paul of the current Republican field brings to the table: a large, dedicated group of supporters. That’s a valuable resource. She is also conventionally credentialed; yes, she didn’t even make it through a full term in Alaska, but the VP nomination basically clinches it; the Republican Party is already on record as saying that she is qualified to be president. On top of that, Palin has, as far as I know, not a single position on the issues that would get her in trouble with any important Republican organized group or constituency. All of those things make her a plausible Republican nominee for President of the United States.
On the down side, of course, is that she polls badly…to some extent with Republicans, but certainly with swing voters. And therefore Republicans who care about winning in November 2012 may well want to defeat her.
Perhaps a more serious problem is that Palin has, to date, shown very little interest in (or perhaps ability to) do the normal things that presidential candidates have to do: spending time in the early states, talking to the press, wooing organized groups, and a whole bunch of things that go under the category of “plays well with others.” As a result, Palin to date has been a factional candidate, representing little more than a personal faction. And while Jimmy Carter won a Democratic nomination as a factional candidate with a personal faction, that’s been a losing strategy for decades now. Presidential nominations are generally won by coalition-building, not factional, candidates.
So while she can’t yet be counted out, unless Sarah Palin shows a so far unseen ability to expand her support, do the things that normal presidential candidates do, and run as a coalition building candidate, she’s relatively unlikely to be nominated. Still, you can be sure that millions of strong Palin supporters — and some in the news media — are filled with new hope today.