GOP 2012 & Palin: It’s not all about Sarah

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Now that Reince Priebus has been installed as the new RNC chair, and Sarah Palin has decided that she is “not going to shut up,” the time has come for conservatives to have an open and honest discussion about Mrs. Palin’s presidential aspirations.

It is clear that Mrs. Palin wants to run for president. She can say that she hasn’t made up her mind, but, trust us, if the opportunity presents itself, Mrs. Palin will take a page from Vince Lombardi’s playbook and “run to daylight” with the same tenacity as SMU’s famed Pony Express did in the 1980s. As conservatives, we are fans of Mrs. Palin, but our pragmatic side understands that a Palin nomination would make President Obama’s re-election a near certainty.

The realities of presidential campaigns and the math of the Electoral College impose certain practical constraints on each party’s nominee. Irrespective of the malicious garbage that the mainstream media shoveled onto Mrs. Palin in the aftermath of the tragedy that unfolded in Tucson, if a Republican is to win the White House in 2012, the GOP must score victories by catering to a specific slice of the voting electorate (Hispanics and independents) in specific battleground states — and with Palin at the top of the ticket that just won’t happen. But don’t take our word for it — Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos infamy and his nutty Netroots cohorts are having a virtual online orgy, hoping for Palin to succeed in the 2012 GOP presidential primary (See www.primariesforpalin.com).

What Mrs. Palin must quickly come to understand is that 2012 is not ALL about her; it is about doing what is in the Republican Party’s best interest in its efforts to wrest the White House from President Obama. Yet, while the GOP can’t win with Palin as its nominee, it certainly could lose without her having a seat at the table.

Anyone who has spent time with Mrs. Palin on the campaign trail quickly recognizes that she speaks for a segment of the electorate that has been talked down to or talked over by the establishment elements of the GOP. Like Billy Graham, Mrs. Palin has a knack for making many people feel good about themselves. It also doesn’t hurt that she can raise money faster than Joel Osteen on Sunday morning. If the GOP is going to retake the White House in 2012, it will need to harness both of these invaluable skills.

Some like Jane Jamison at Right Wing News have suggested that Mrs. Palin should be regulated to the sidelines in 2012 to serve as a conservative towel-waver (think former Boston Celtic great M.L. Carr). While we agree the eventual Republican nominee will be well served by Mrs. Palin’s passion on the campaign trail, this characterization misses the mark. Mrs. Palin needs to play a bigger role in 2012. Let’s hope RNC Chairman Priebus, the GOP’s standard-bearers and Mrs. Palin herself can agree on what exactly that role should be.

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are co-founders of CivicForumPAC and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.