Simply put, it’s been an incredible week for Sarah Palin.
Her eleventh-hour endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware’s Senate primary last Tuesday left the correlation between her blessing and the subsequent victory nearly undeniable. In New Hampshire, Palin’s endorsement of Senate candidate and fellow Mama Grizzly Kelly Ayotte helped put the former state attorney general over the edge in what turned out to be a squeaker of a primary.
By Wednesday, much of the oxygen on cable news was being consumed by discussions over Palin’s power and clout within the GOP. And in advance of her Friday trip to Iowa to speak at the annual Ronald Reagan Dinner, Palin did little to tamp down speculation over whether she would run for president in 2012, telling Fox News,
“If the American people were to be ready for someone who is willing to shake it up, and willing to get back to time-tested truths, and help lead our country towards a more prosperous and safe future, and if they happen to think I was the one, if it were best for my family and for our country, of course I would give it a shot.”
Entering Iowa to a chorus of fanfare and buzz, Palin delivered what was a fairly pedestrian speech. For the most part, she stuck to a familiar script. Blast the media? Check. Tout the wisdom of the Tea Party? No question. Excoriate Team Obama for implementing a deficit-busting domestic agenda and for pursuing a reckless foreign policy? Absolutely.
In one breath she was a Tea Party apologist, refuting charges of extremism while commending the movement for being morally sincere in its aims to stop the “fundamental transformation of America.” In another breath, she resembled a prosecutor, issuing a lengthy indictment of the media for “making things up and telling untruths.”
Palin’s theoretical talk of a GOP hierarchy that follows her marching orders and relies upon the political playbook of grassroots conservatives rather than that of establishment Republicans smacked of visionary language more suited for a party standard bearer than a kingmaker.
From the pilgrimage to Iowa to the talk of “the great awakening of America” to the slew of endorsements in early primary states, one thing has become clear: Palin is no longer in the “undecided” camp of potential presidential contenders; she’s a firm “yes.”
And who can blame her?
The prospective GOP field for 2012 lacks both charisma and a clear front-runner. Of course, that’s not to say that Palin will win the Republican nomination squarely because of a weak field.
Since her ticket’s defeat twenty-two months ago, Palin has amassed a flurry of successes on a number of fronts. She’s become a best-selling author; a heavy presence throughout the conservative echo chamber, including on Fox News and talk radio; a social networking star whose Facebook posts and tweets have altered the course of political debates; and the face of a powerful movement intent on cleansing the Republican Party of those who fail the conservative smell test.
All this has given Palin an unbounded amount of power within the Republican Party. Palin knows her stock may never be higher. The culmination of her political triumphs and Obama’s faltering popularity have likely convinced her that the presidential door may never be more open, making the temptation to run too great to pass up.
To dismiss her chances of winning would be foolish, but the obstacles to her candidacy are numerous and large. Chief among them: persuading a significant chunk of the electorate that she is up to the job of being president. That will require putting to rest damaging caricatures that resulted from a spot-on Tina Fey impersonation and a devastating Katie Couric interview, as well as rebutting the “quitter” tag placed on her following her resignation as governor of Alaska.
Obstacles or no obstacles, Sarah Palin is going full steam ahead towards 2012.
Aaron Guerrero is a 2009 UC Davis graduate who majored in political science and minored in history. He formerly interned for Rep. Dan Lungren and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and is a freelance writer.