When recently asked if she could defeat President Obama in a head-to-head match-up, Sarah Palin confidently responded in the affirmative.
Her response attracted chuckles from some in the press and within the Obama administration. But for anyone who has followed Palin’s rise from populist governor of Alaska to game-changing lightning rod, it wasn’t surprising to hear her express confidence in her ability to take-on and upend the political juggernaut that is Barack Obama. But a dwindling number of people share the former governor’s belief that she has the political qualities necessary to walk away victoriously from a general election.
No, it’s not just those pesky establishment types who are doubtful Palin can make the transition from a polarizing conservative wonder woman to a presidential contender with broad appeal. It’s also the base of the Republican Party that seems to be thinking longer and harder these days about what the consequences would be of nominating Palin.
A CNN Research/Opinion Research Corporation poll taken last month revealed that only 49 percent of Republicans are “very” or “somewhat likely” to support a Palin presidential bid, down from 67 percent when the same question was posed in December of 2008. Adding insult to injury, the left-leaning outfit Public Policy Polling released troubling numbers from key battleground states reaffirming what many of us already knew: Palin polls poorly in swing states.
The major takeaway here is that Palin’s unique hold on the conservative faithful may be eroding and reservations by the rank and file could increasingly be coming into play as they prepare to nominate their standard-bearer. Yes, it’s never wise to put too much stock in a single poll. But if Palin is as strong as everyone thinks she is amongst the GOP base, wouldn’t other polls taking the temperature for 2012 show her getting a higher percentage of the GOP vote or in possession of a respectable lead over potential rivals?
After all, Palin not only played the game in 2010, she seemed to own it. Other GOP presidential wannabes could only dream of possessing the influence and sway she had in determining Republican primaries and in ginning up the Tea Party vote. What’s more, Palin demonstrated that she still had the capacity to rekindle the 2008 magic by attracting the masses, wowing and firing them up, and getting them to open up their checkbooks for the cause.
Palin’s good works and status as the most exhilarating Republican in the country may not help in counteracting the new dynamic emerging between herself and the GOP base. Recognizing that numbers don’t lie, stalwart Republicans could slowly be reaching the conclusion that while Palin is great as a chief tormentor to liberals, an unbearable nuisance to the Obama White House, and a political phenomenon of the right, her political talents and appeal are not properly suited for a serious run at the presidency.
Surely the GOP establishment is quietly smiling at the prospect that the rank and file is beginning to listen with a careful ear to their concerns over putting Palin at the top of the ticket. Many GOP strategists and conservative pundits have even turned up the heat in recent weeks, with one GOP strategist and conservative pundit after another popping off on Palin, denouncing and dismissing her presidential ambitions in often hostile and definitive terms. The influx of sudden criticism got a cherry on top this past weekend, when conservative icons Charles Krauthammer and George Will told national audiences from the tube that Palin has zero chance of winning the presidency.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush raised eyebrows during the holiday season when she said that Palin should “stay in Alaska” rather than run for president. If skepticism by the GOP base grows and the establishment pile-on continues, it may not be a bad idea for Palin to heed such advice.
Aaron Guerrero is a freelance writer.