Editor's note: This column was originally published under the wrong byline -- the correct author is Armstrong Williams.
Sarah Palin continues to be a polarizing figure after her days as McCain's presidential running mate. Irrespective, a popularized Palin has resonated within the hearts of many Americans across the nation. Palin has rocked and shocked the national political climate for the upcoming 2012 presidential elections. She has resurrected GOP candidates to victory, raised a ton of money, and continues to be a potent political force that is both feared and admired. Some in the GOP establishment has recently tried to marginalize her and suggest she's the reason they didn't capture the Senate in the recent midterm elections. However, most with any common sense and understanding of how she continues to impact the political landscape finds this utterly ridiculous.
Two years ago Sarah Palin was a divisive figure capable of scaring away even those on the fringe of voting for the McCain-Palin duet. She had botched big-stage interviews and fell victim to public scandals. McCain and his staff eventually turned on her. Irrespective, somehow a popularized Palin continues to connect with many Americans and has become their symbol of a possible new renaissance across the Heartland.
She is nothing short of a ball of fire that has creatively rallied groups, such as her Grizzly Moms, to stand up for conservative principles and be heard. More recently, she was able to turn election races around for many conservative candidates in South Carolina and. The possibilities of what she can and has accomplished in American political theatre are endless and downright heart-warming to her devout supporters.
Does anyone now doubt Sarah Palin's increasing star power on the political stage? It’s somewhat reminiscent of President Obama’s. However, instead of reaching out to the esoteric intellectual left, she is reaching out to Independents/Conservative families with small-town values.
The talk of the town now in Washington, D.C. and across the nation is whether or not she can translate this into a serious presidential contender and the GOP's nominee to face President Obama in 2012. Has her brand been seriously damage by her resignation as Governor and the fact that she has become a well paid brand name as a Fox News contributor and highly sought after speaker who reportedly has been paid ten million dollars over the past year.
Let's take a look at the larger field of potential Republican candidates and her prospects for the 2012 GOP show down.
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.