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Not as Bad as Some Would Lead You to Believe

February 18, 2010

Sarah Palin’s return to the spotlight with her successful book tour, her contract with and frequent appearances on the Fox News Channel, and her speech at the National Tea Party Convention have sparked a new flurry of speculation about her presidential ambitions and prospects.

Tea Party conservatives love Palin. But according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 70 percent of Americans believe she isn’t qualified to be the President of the United States. The left incessantly ridicules her. And members of the Republican establishment make comments that reveal their doubts about her. Are her prospects really as bad as some would lead you to believe? Perhaps not!

As for opinion polls, considering how quickly President Obama’s approval ratings have dropped in the year since he took office, Palin’s current poll numbers are no indication of what they will be in 2011 or 2012. Her overall approval rating already has risen from the low thirties after the 2008 election to the mid-forties since her autobiography, Sarah Palin: Going Rogue, went on sale, bringing her close to President Obama's. With her increased exposure on Fox and appearances around the country, they’ll continue to improve.

The activist left, who sees Palin as a threat, continues to ridicule and demean her. They believe, based on their past successes with other conservatives, that they can marginalize her with personal attacks. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs even got into the act when he mocked her during a daily press briefing for writing a note on her palm at the Tea Party Convention.

The left’s ridicule of Palin and some Republicans' own doubts about her are reasons why even members of her own party believe she can never be a serious presidential candidate. Asked if he thought Palin was qualified to be president on ABC's This Week last Sunday, former Vice President Dick Cheney avoided the question, responding that he hadn’t made up his mind which candidate he would support. Many interpreted this response as a not-so-subtle indication that Cheney didn’t think she was qualified.

Conservative political commentator and columnist Andrea Tantaros believes Palin should become the next Oprah Winfrey. Tantaros recently wrote; “Though many believe she's set her sights on the White House in 2012, Palin should get this through her head now: She would be far more influential as a talk-show host than she would be as a presidential candidate, and she should start planning her career trajectory accordingly.”

Obviously, most people at this time, including many Republicans, either don’t take Palin seriously, don't believe she's qualified, or believe she couldn't be elected president. For just about any other politician, that would be that, but not for Palin. She's undeterred by the left's attacks, she believes she's more qualified for the job than Barack Obama was, and she is deeply committed to the commonsense conservatism she champions.

The Sarah Palin who spoke to the Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, and who Chris Wallace interviewed on Fox News Sunday wasn’t the Palin we saw Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson interview in 2008. She’s come back stronger, sharper, and more focused.

As David Broder, in his February 11 column in the Washington Post, “Palin’s Perfect Pitch Populism,” wrote; “The snows that obliterated Washington in the past week interfered with many scheduled meetings, but they did not prevent the delivery of one important political message: Take Sarah Palin seriously.”

Sarah Palin has not yet said that she intends to run for president; no astute politician reveals her intentions this early, but there’s little doubt she has her eyes on the White House. As she told Wallace when he asker about running for president; “I would if I believe that is the right thing to do for our country and for the Palin family. Certainly, I would do so.”

Palin’s decision will come sometime after the 2010 mid-term elections--after she has campaigned around the country for conservative Republican candidates and collected IOUs she can call in when she runs for president. In the mean time she will hone her message on the stump and on Fox, raise money for her political action committee, and keep her options open.

No one knows what the political environment will be in 2012. Republicans recapturing control of the House and Senate, if they do, could be the best thing that could happen to Barack Obama, as it was when that happened to President Bill Clinton. It could force Obama to move toward the center and become a less controversial president, making him more likely to win reelection. If Obama’s approval ratings are high and it appears he’s likely to win a second term, Palin can readjust her sights on 2016.

If, however, Obama looks vulnerable, as he does now, and Palin announces her candidacy for 2012, no one should underestimate her chances. As Dick Morris recently observed, "In a candidate you can't replace courage, integrity, guts, and confidence--and she has those in abundance."

If rank-and-file conservatives still have the enthusiasm for her they do now, she could certainly win the nomination. She’ll be able to raise millions from small contributors, like Obama did in 2008. She’ll attract conservative Tea-Party goers to the polls in the primaries and caucuses--the people likely to be most influential in choosing the Republican nominee. And she will perform well in the debates.

Should she win the Republican nomination, once it becomes a one man, one woman race, like all presidential elections, it will take on a dynamic all its own. The state of the economy, the war with Islamist-Jihadists, Obama's record, and a host of other issues and how the candidates address them will determine how voters line up. There is a path for Sarah Palin to become the 45th President of the United States, if she navigates it effectively, and it’s not just wishful thinking.

Anyone who questions Palin’s presidential ambition either isn’t paying attention or wants to discourage it. Anyone who doubts her prospects either underestimates her or doesn’t understand the mood of the country and the dynamics of presidential politics.



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