Monday, July 6, 2009

Thoughts on Sarah Palin Resigning

Sarah Palin resigning as Alaska’s governor was the biggest media story of the weekend. Much has already been said, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also address this topic.

I have no idea what her true motivations for leaving were. There have been all sorts of rumors and I’m poorly situated to evaluate their veracity. What I want to focus on instead are the implications of leaving for Palin’s political future.

There are certainly some benefits to leaving for her. It will be easier now for her to establish a formidable apparatus for the 2012 campaign. She will have more time to travel the lower 48 states campaigning for Republican candidates and winning their goodwill. She can also raise money for her political action committee (PAC) and hire operatives for her future campaign.

Running for President is now a full-time job, even years before the nominating competitions actually occur. Her rivals like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are already doing these things themselves. Trying to position herself for 2012 while being governor of Alaska would have been very difficult.

On balance though, I think this will not help her. Palin was only a one-term governor in the first place. When and if she runs for President, she will only have had two-and-a-half years of experience. True, Barack Obama was able to mount his own presidential campaign after only two years in office himself. But he also didn’t quit his Senate seat in the middle of his term to run.

And fairly or unfairly, there is a perception that Palin has a lack of gravitas. Even the way that she speaks has been mocked. Quitting office is not going to do much to change that perception. Being out of office leaves her free to spend more time studying up on the issues I suppose, but I think she could have done that as governor too.

That is not to say that this decision will completely sink her ambitions. My bet is that people will not be talking about this decision a year from now. I have said repeatedly here that the biggest issue in the 2012 campaign will likely be the economy. If Palin can develop a compelling, coherent economic vision she could have a chance if the economy’s still doing poorly.

Moreover, she will still retain her rabid base of fans. Evangelicals predominate in Iowa and South Carolina which are crucial to building early momentum. These voters admire her and could still vote for her. But to have a realistic shot at the nomination and wining in November, she must reach beyond that evangelical base. I don’t see how resigning before her term is up helps her do that.

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