I have no desire to go into details about each of the already-crowded field of prospective Republican presidential candidates now. Even though its early, it's quickly becoming obvious who the contenders will be. At this point in mid-November, we know a few things: Mitt Romney is definitely running. So are Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty. Sen. John Thune and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels are quietly pondering the idea, but as the decision date draws close, you can bet they’ll be in the GOP mix. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour should run, if only so we can hear his popular witticisms.
There will be others, of course, but the one person every pundit is asking about is Sarah Palin. Will she take the plunge in the wake of a successful season for her brand of Tea Party politics or will she continue to make moose gobs of money on the speaker circuit?
If the Republican primary process even remotely reflected how party members felt about her, Palin would not finish near the top if votes were cast today. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 67% of Americans say Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president. No surprise there. Yet when Republicans were asked the same question, fewer than half (47%) said she was indeed qualified, while 46% said she was not. Those are fairly interesting numbers, particularly among party followers.
A quick glance at the GOP nomination process, however, coupled with the presumed crowded field, and one can easily see how Palin not only captures the nomination, but wins it fairly easily.
Think of it as the Palin Loyalty Factor (PLF). If there are 7-9 GOP candidates headed into Iowa and New Hampshire, several will draw from the same base of voters, splitting an already small segment of voters who would look beyond Palin’s charisma and appeal for something of more substance. Yet Palin’s voter corps would, through thick and thin, still register in the 15%-20% range, a percentage that, while small in nominal terms, would easily form a plurality of Republican voters and send her over the top.
The PLF would be hard to undermine, as well, because the intensity of her voters is remarkably strong. I’ll be interested to see how Gov. Palin conducts herself in the months to come, challenging the President’s agenda while holding Republicans’ feet to the fire of her conservative principles. Many will attempt to glean glimpses into how Palin would run a presidential bid based on how she moves through 2011. We know one thing: Palin has a lot to prove to voters to win their support in a general matchup against Obama.
Love her or despise her folks, Mama Grizzly is a force that you must come to grips with now and in 2012.