Independents’ Eye by Joe Gandelman

Will she or won’t she? Will Sarah Palin throw her Facebook page into the ring for the 2012 Republican nomination? Can she win the nomination? And if she gets it can she be elected?

The conventional wisdom says no on the last two. That’s the same conventional wisdom that has been wrong about Palin from the start.

Taylor Jones / (click to share)

For much of 2010, Sarah Palin was the candidate of the talk radio political culture. Talk radio puts a high premium on demeaning, disdaining and discrediting. That has been Palin’s stock in trade. The irony: now both her longtime establishment conservative critics and some conservatives who fear she would lose badly to Obama are using the tactics of demeaning, disdaining and discrediting on Palin.

George Will, the intellectual high priest of establishment conservatives, told the Politico that if Palin got the nomination the GOP wouldn’t remain the party of ideas. Weekly Standard writer Matt Labash said Palin has been playing the victim so often she’s “becoming Al Shartpon, Alaska edition.”

Charles Krauthammer dug the dagger in deeper: “When populism becomes purely anti-intellectual, it can become unhealthy and destructive.” Palin’s longtime booster, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, responded to Krauthhammer and Will in typical talk radio political culture: by trying to discredit them: “Krauthammer used to write speeches for Walter Mondale,” he sniffed. “Yeah. Howard Baker was his choice in ’76 or ’80, I forget which. George Will was a late arrival to the Reagan revolution.”

The Republican establishment was never fond of Palin, but was happy she fired up the base. She was considered such a potential front runner early last year that her first major speech became a major news event carried live on cable. I was on a CNN talking head independent voter panel to give my reaction. Palin still gets media attention but her political star is waning. Unless it was a slow news day it’d be hard to imagine a cable network carrying it in full live today.

So should you count her out? You could come up with a scenario where she could get enough votes in the primaries to be nominated or control a potent number of convention delegates. In an op-ed piece in The Hill, Senator Judd Gregg warned about Palin piling up primary votes but being virtually unelectable. GOP political maven Karl Rove consistently expressed doubts about Palin. Then there’s this:

New York Magazine reported that after Gabby Giffords’ Tucson shooting, Palin called Fox News chief Roger Ailes to ask his advice on responding to Palin being under verbal attack. He told her to lie low. She ignored him. This means the powerful Rove and Ailes view her as loose cannon lacking political discipline.

A new Poynter Institute poll found, 34% of respondents said they read news online within the past 24 hours versus opposed to 31% who favored newspapers and 41% who said they get most of their news online, 10 percent more than those who said they got most of their news from a newspaper. This is the first time the Internet surpassed newspapers. Palin largely ignores print media and has a big Internet following. Old conventional wisdom models may NOT apply in her case.

There is a way out for GOP establishment conservatives: if Palin enters and splite her Tea Party vote with Michele Bachman. A new Gallup Poll finds Bachman is second in “positive intensity” score with Mike Huckabee first and Newt Gingrich third. Palin is fourth ““ not a good sign with so many GOPers seeking to keep her in Alaska.

Can she win the White House? Conventional wisdom is not always correct. But the fact is: Sarah Palin marches to her OWN drummer. Is the GOP willing to follow her on the march to her own drummer and where that will (likely) lead?


Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at [email protected] and can be booked to speak at your event at

Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman.