Palin is hardly the first GOP politician to raise the issue of impeachment over the past couple years. Others include Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), Michael Burgess (R-Tex.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), former congressmen Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Allen West (R-Fla.), and the South Dakota Republican Party. Not all of these folks called for Obama's impeachment directly, but all of them suggested that it is or should be on the table.
What none of these folks have, though, is a national following. That's where Palin comes in. She's the first Republican of any significant national stature to make this call. And she's the kind of figure who could potentially recruit others to the cause — people who will want to be heard. Palin surely doesn't carry the kind of weight she once did in the GOP, but she still has a significant tea party following and is highly popular among the conservative base.
If a significant pro-impeachment portion of the conservative base does materialize — and that's a big "if" — it will put Republican lawmakers in the unenviable position of responding to questions about whether they, too, agree with the idea of impeachment.
From there, there are three options:
1) Oppose impeachment and risk making yourself a target in the 2016 primary
2) Try to offer a non-response that doesn't really support or oppose impeachment
3) Support impeachment and, while likely saving your own hide from becoming a target, exacerbate the problem with the larger Republican Party.
So just why is the whole impeachment talk bad for the GOP?
Well, as we've said before, it throws a sizable and unpredictable variable into what was already shaping up to be a good election year for Republicans. That same could be said for the Benghazi investigation (though that effort appears to have the support of the American people). The name of the game for the GOP right now is maintaining their edge and trying to win back the Senate. Everything else is noise.
Secondly, it lends credence to Democrats' argument that Republicans are controlled by the extreme wing of their party. And to the extent that Democrats can make the 2014 election a referendum on the GOP's conduct in Congress (see: government shutdown), it's to their benefit.
Lastly, impeachment is a very difficult issue to press. Even in the late 1990s, when an American president had an affair in the White House and then lied about it, support for impeachment was still well shy of a majority — as low as 30 percent.
In Obama's case, we're sure there are plenty of people who genuinely believe that what he's done rises to the level of impeachment. But that doesn't make their viewpoint a political winner, and their task in convincing the rest of the American people is very tall.
Palin and a growing number of conservatives want to press their luck. It's a huge and unnecessary risk for their party. But then again, politics isn't so much a team sport in the Republican Party these days.