A few weeks ago on these pages I shocked a lot of people by strongly stating what seems to be an obvious but important reality that Sarah Palin cannot beat President Obama in 2012. While many of her incredibly passionate fans are still understandably unwilling to accept this clear fact (and therefore take their frustrations out on me), this post is not to gloat over the most recent credible poll showing that Palin would be, as I predicted, the worst possible contender against an Obama who still is a strong favorite to win reelection. Instead, I want to praise Palin for possibly understanding this situation and reacting brilliantly to it.
While anyone not named Todd or Sarah who pretends to know for sure what Palin’s long-term plans are is either delusional or a liar, the news that she has secured a Learning Channel deal to air an eight-part documentary on Alaska may provide quite us a bit of insight.
A huge part of the reason that I decided to “come out” regarding my assessment that Palin can’t beat Obama was that the path she seemed to be taking made it impossible for her to change any of the many media-polluted minds that would be necessary to win the presidency. Well, I now believe that a very strong argument can be made that she completely understands this and has no intention of running in 2012.
Palin is already a constant Fox News contributor, working on a second book, a frequent public speaker and, oh by the way, the mother of five (three of them still not adults). Now she is adding TV series producer/host to her already lengthy to-do list? How exactly could anyone (even Sarah Palin) possibly have enough time to even think about running for president? In today’s world the latest anyone could seriously begin a presidential run would be January of 2011. That is nine months from now (I am sure there is a Palin fertility joke in there somewhere). Even if she is not deeply involved in the details (my guess is that she will be) the eight-part documentary television series alone will take the better part of a year, if not longer.
Now I can already hear the Palinites shout (or e-mail in all caps) that this is a special woman and that since she already has all the name recognition anyone could possibly possess and the ability to raise money fast, that she can wait longer than anyone else before getting serious about things (just ask Fred Thompson!). This is undeniably true (at least to an extent), but I think the content of the TV series tells us at least as much about her future plans as the time that the project will obviously take.
Ask yourself, “Why would a woman who not long ago resigned as Alaska’s Governor and is now an international celebrity who could live/work anywhere she wanted, decide to do a TV show about Alaska?” Well, one of the reasons is obviously that she loves the state and wants to use her celebrity to share Alaska’s many wonders with the rest of the world. However, there could also be a very significant political rational behind this maneuver and it certainly isn’t because the key to winning in 2012 is to have more people associate her with a state very few Americans even think of as part of the country.
Palin’s popularity in her adopted home state has been in steady decline ever since she was chosen as John McCain’s VP candidate. There are many reasons for this, many of which have nothing to do with her. I saw the extent of this erosion of support first-hand when we screened “Media Malpractice” in Anchorage last spring and it was why I asked Palin about resigning well before she “shocked” the world by doing so.
I also know that some people pretty close to her in Alaska who feel as if she has gone “Hollywood” (my words, not theirs) and that the “real” Sarah Palin may be on the verge of being lost forever. There is no doubt that a documentary of this type, which will bring enormous exposure and probably tourist income to Alaska will restore some of her “ice cred” and popularity there.
Why is this important? Well, it isn’t because of Alaska’s three electoral votes. It seems to me that at least part of what this path provides is the possibility of running for Alaska’s currently Democrat-held U.S. Senate seat in 2014. Under this scenario Palin leads the GOP to victory in 2010, immediately gets out of the way of the other contenders by announcing that, for the good of the team, she is not running for president, and then, after Obama wins reelection she declares herself for the Senate seat. This way she avoids an inevitable defeat and emerges tanned, rested and ready (and, in the minds of many people, more experienced/seasoned) to be the frontrunner for the 2016 nomination in a year that looks like a slam-dunk for Republicans.
Maybe this is all wishful thinking (or over thinking) on my part, but it absolutely makes sense. So much so that there is probably some other, far less appealing, explanation.
John Ziegler is currently a documentary filmmaker who most recently released a movie on the 2008 election called, “Media Malpractice… How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted.” He has also been in radio talk show host in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Louisville and Nashville. Ziegler has written two books and has appeared live on numerous national television shows including the Today Show, The View, Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC.