Palin a hero to many in Tea Party, but not their pick for president

Perhaps the least known aspect about Sarah Palin’s relationship with the Tea Party is that though almost all in the movement love her and support her, many of them simultaneously have serious reservations about whether they want her to run for president.

Interviews over the last few months with numerous Tea Party and conservative voters in states around the country yielded no one who was enthusiastic about Palin running for president, though a handful said they were open to it. In addition, conservative and Tea Party leaders who are speaking to the grassroots regularly report that they have consistently heard the same thing.

Palin is currently ascendant in many respects. The eight-part reality show on TLC starring her and her family aired on Sunday and drew 5 million viewers, a record for a premier on that channel. With her daughter’s string of appearances on “Dancing with the Stars,” Palin’s celebrity star has not shined brighter since the heat of the 2008 campaign. And much of the attention now is soft media, far more positive than the stretch of brutal press that Palin endured during the 2008 campaign as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate.

In addition, the Republican crop of candidates to challenge Obama in 2012 remains unsatisfying to most conservatives. No one person combines star power and charisma with intellectual heft, policy expertise and political courage to stand for things the right most wants to see.

Recent polling on the Republican field by Public Policy Polling showed Palin leading the pack of 2012 GOP candidates in six states, while Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was ahead in six other states. Palin led in Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Wisconsin and Washington. Romney was ahead in New Hampshire, California, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut and Nevada.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee led in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky and Alaska, Palin’s home state. But tellingly, the most respondents in all 18 states, 19.6 percent, said they want someone else or were undecided.

A Gallup poll released Tuesday showed Palin with 16 percent support in the GOP primary, tied for second with Huckabee behind only Romney, who had 19 percent.

Palin, therefore, has to be considered a leading contender for the nomination judging solely by the polls. Many in the GOP establishment who do not want to see her become the party’s nominee are dismayed that no strong alternative has yet become apparent.

But there are signs that even though Palin enjoys broad support throughout the conservative movement, that enthusiasm does not extend to nominating her to run against President Obama.

A PPP poll in September found that while Palin is the most popular of all the potential 2012 Republican candidates, with 66 percent personal approval, only 24 percent of that 66 percent think she should be president.

Interviews over the last few months with Tea Party conservatives – who spoke with TheDC at rallies, organizing events in and outside of Washington, and over phone and e-mail – have hit upon the same thing time and time again. Many in the grassroots think Palin is an outstanding spokesperson for Americans who do not feel like they have power or a voice and are dismayed at the direction the country is going in. They revel in her anti-establishment, anti-elite attitude, and cheer her on as she mocks and criticizes the Washington political class.

But their enthusiasm often falters when it comes to 2012.

“I like Palin,” said Alan Reasin, a 65-year old retired nuclear power plant engineer from Conowingo, Md, holding a large “Don’t Tread on Me” flag outside the U.S. Capitol Monday at a small rally featuring Tea Party favorites Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican.