(This is the first piece in a two-part series)
Will she or won’t she run for President?
I once laid out the reasons why Sarah Palin has a better shot of becoming president than Barack Obama did before Obama announced his candidacy during the 2008 election cycle.
And while conventional wisdom among the chattering class continues to lean against Palin mounting a presidential run, Palin has been courting the conservative base while not alienating swing voters in swing states such as Ohio, Colorado, and Florida better than any potential GOP contender.
Too often, those who cover Palin do not listen to her words or read her statements, Facebook postings, or tweets. As a result, conventional wisdom holds that Palin is setting herself up to be an entertainer, a conservative money maker, or a right-wing flame thrower who seeks only to rouse up the conservative base and get rich quick off of it. If those who proffer these theories had listened to and read her words closely, they would know that Palin has been telling everyone that she is running for president in 2012. Here are ten reasons why.
1. A pension is a promise
At an appearance before a Long Island businesses association, Palin said that a “pension is a promise” in response to a question about what to do about entitlements in an age of austerity. Her answer indicated that she does not want to anger older voters who are the most reliable subset of voters in the primary and general election.
If Palin did not have her sights on winning a potential general election, she could have taken a more extreme position and called for cuts to some programs that benefit seniors and retirees to pay down the debt.
2. Tea Partiers have to pick a party
While addressing the first Tea Party convention in Tennessee, Palin responded to a question about whether the Tea Party should become a third party by saying, “now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this Tea Party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party.”
“Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken? Which party will best fit you?,” Palin asked. “And then because the Tea Party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they’re going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: ‘R’ or ‘D’”
If Palin only had intentions of being a conservative rabble rouser, she would have encouraged Tea Partiers to break away from the Republican party and go at it alone. Instead, Palin knows she can only make it to the White House if she ultimately works within the Republican party apparatus and brings independent minded Tea Party voters along with her.
3. Birtherism a distraction (wink)
Palin, speaking in Long Island, said that claims that Obama was born in Kenya or is a secret Muslim are “distractions” and “annoying,” and that Republicans should focus on the economy.
She had indicated before, though, that those who wanted to question Obama’s birthplace had every right to do so.
Last weekend on Fox News, Palin seemed to be walking that line again when she said that she believed Obama was born in Hawaii before saying, perhaps a bit sarcastically, that she’s not going to get in the way of Donald Trump’s quest to find the true origin of Obama’s birth. “More power to him,” Palin said.
By saying she thought Obama was born in Hawaii, Palin prevented anyone from calling her a birther. By not denigrating those who may find it odd that Obama has not released his long-form birth certificate, she did not alienate a group of voters who can potentially vote for her in the primary and general election.
4. The anti-Obama
From her maiden Facebook post opposing ObamaCare to her energy speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in 2009 to her stands on foreign policy issues (most recently on Libya and Egypt), Palin has emerged as the most prominent opposer-in-chief, establishing herself as Obama’s main foil.
With the GOP primary electorate staunchly against Obama, this allows Palin to cater to Republican primary voters while getting a head start on potentially becoming Obama’s main opponent in the general election.
5. The anti-McCain
If Palin learned anything from John McCain’s failed presidential campaign in 2008, it may have been that McCain probably lost the presidency because he wanted to be liked by the media, turned off conservatives who did not show up for him at the polls, and took Republican primary voters for granted by trying to run a pure general election campaign before winning the GOP primary. Palin has shown that she could care less about what the media — left, mainstream and right of center –thinks of her. In addition, in backing Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer in support of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 immigraiton law and standing behind conservative causes and candidates, such as recently elected Justice David Prosser of Wisconsin, Palin, the person who most likely could take the GOP primary base for granted, is the one who is least taking the GOP primary voters for granted.
6. Anti-establishment and Todd Palin
Palin always mentions how her husband does not belong to a poltical party and was a union member. By constantly reminding people that her husband is not a Republican, she is trying align herself not only with independent voters in the general election but also with voters who in the primary would identify themselves as conservatives before Republicans.
On the policy front, Palin has often opposed fellow Republicans, most recently in her strong opposition to the temporary Continuing Resolution that Congressional Republican leaders supported last weekend.
7. On Labor Unions
She wrote to public sector union workers in Wisconsin: “Hard working, patriotic, and selfless union brothers and sisters: please don’t be taken in by the union bosses.” And this seems to be Palin’s mantra when it comes to unions and their leaders.
Palin knows members of labor unions made up a big chunk of the Reagan Democrat coalition. By criticizing union leaders and not union workers, Palin is indicating a willingness to cobble together Reagan’s blue-collar coalition, particulalry in Midwestern swing states such as Ohio, for these Jacksonian Reagan Democrats have swung every election since 1980.
8. Israel and Star of David
When Palin recently visited Israel, POLITICO’s Ben Smith reported that she had arranged her travel plans through a Christian tour operator. Intentionally or not, the optics of this again showed how she is appealing to potential primary voters (Evangelicals) while simultaneously appealing to general election voters (Jewish voters in Florida who may be disaffected with Obama).
Palin has also worn a lapel pin with the American and Israeli flags together at a TIME dinner and recently was photographed wearing a Star of David necklace during her trip to Israel.
9. Foreign trips
If Palin were to run for the presidency, her greatest liability, even in a potential GOP primary that currently lacks many authorities on foreign policy, would be her perceived weakness on foreign policy. These trips are not for her to cash a paycheck. Rather, they are trips to potentially buffer her from being tagged as weak on foreign policy in a potential GOP primary and general election. In her most recent trip to India, Palin laid out themes that could be used in a potential GOP primary without losing their shelf-life during the general election.
10. She said she can beat Obama
A week after the 2008 election, Palin told Greta Van Sustern of Fox News, “if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”
In an interview with Runner’s World magazine, Palin was asked if she could beat Obama in a race (running), and she responded, “betcha I’d have more endurance. What I lacked in physical strength or skill I made up for in determination and endurance. So if it were a long race that required a lot of endurance, I’d win.”
To Barbara Walters at the end of 2010, Palin said that she believed she could beat Obama in a general election.
And most recently, Palin spoke to Van Sustern in Florida upon returning from her trip to Israel, and told Van Sustern that, “I’m still wondering who the heck is going to be out there with a servant’s heart willing to serve the American people for the right reason, not for ego, not for special interests, not with obsessive partisanship.”
Palin could not hide back her desire to run for the Presidency a week after Obama won the 2008 election, she implied to Runner’s World that she could defeat Obama in a metaphorical race, and she told Walters that she could defeat Obama in a general election. And with her most recent statements to Van Sustern, Palin has set herself up as a candidate who can survey the current crop of potential GOP contenders that lacks a candidate that people are enamored with and use that as an excuse to enter the 2012 nominating contest with a “servant’s heart” despite the great sacrifice she and her family would have to endure.
It is obvious that Palin has been telling everyone who would listen that she is running in 2012. It’s just a matter of when she is going to make the announcement.
(the second part of this series tomorrow focuses on how the Republican establishment and the mainstream media have inadvertently colluded to make Palin more formidable than she would have been otherwise).