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Five reasons why Sarah Palin will run (and five reasons why she won't)

August 25, 2011|By James Oliphant


  1. Perry is ripe to be taken. The Texas governor’s high-velocity ascent to the top of the pile illustrates the volatility of the race—and perhaps the weakness of the field.  If he could so quickly capture the hearts and minds of conservatives, the charismatic and even better-known Palin would seem like a good bet to supplant him. And given the talk in some GOP circles about the need for another candidate to challenge Perry, there appears to be some hunger for yet another option.
  2. She’d be the star of the show. From the moment she declares, Palin would draw media coverage like no other candidate, rendering Perry, Romney, Michele Bachmann and everyone else to an afterthought. She could dine for weeks on the free exposure she’d receive—and the coverage could help make up for the organizational shortcomings she currently has.  
  3. She’ll energize the party. Except for perhaps Bachmann and Ron Paul, passion has been the missing ingredient in the Republican field. But Palin’s supporters are die-hards. She is perhaps one of the few candidates who can transform nonvoters into voters, something Republicans may need to match Democratic turnout.
  4. She’ll do it her way. During her “One Nation” bus tour, Palin proved that she could bend the media—and local officials—to her will, showing up practically unannounced, granting selective interviews and interacting with the public as she chose. She has repeatedly said that she would mount a nontraditional campaign, one that would likely leverage her celebrity as much as possible. She may relish the challenge of seeing how far that celebrity can take her, and she seems unconcerned about the effects the media scrum would have on her and her family.
  5. She can’t lose. Whether she captures the nomination—or the White House—Palin will have made her own kind of history and likely buttressed her image as a straight-talking, anti-establishment conservative. She could drop out at any time, blame the party hierarchy and still have legions of (and perhaps new) admirers.
  1. Her window has closed. She had her shot, but Perry’s entry and Bachmann’s popularity among "tea party" conservatives, have siphoned away the support she would need to mount a serious run. Where before she may have been able to fashion herself as the only significant challenger to Romney, Perry can make the same argument—and he’s a longtime governor of a prosperous state.
  2. She can’t do it her way. Even Barack Obama, with all of the fawning media coverage and all of the attention he received in 2007 and 2008, had to build an extensive, sprawling network of operatives, volunteers and surrogates to first beat Hillary Clinton and then capture the presidency. Until someone proves otherwise, presidential campaigns succeed from the ground up, not the top down. Palin has shown no sign of wanting to build an operation such as that, nor has shown any desire for day-in, day-out campaigning. There's also the question of money. While it's generally assumed that Palin wouldn't have trouble raising funds for her campaign, that hasn't been tested. And as Romney and Perry work to lock up donors, time is becoming an enemy in that regard.
  3. She has it pretty good. Palin is one of America’s biggest stars—and she can have an effect on Republican politics by simply posting on Facebook. Her status as a private citizen allows her to choose where and when she engages the media. And right now, she makes a lot of money, whether from her reportedly $1-million Fox News contract, speaking gigs or books. The bottom line is that she is in almost complete control of her time and her image. If she runs, that will change dramatically. And coming up short risks damaging a brand that she has worked hard to cultivate.
  4. She’ll split the party. Somewhere, GOP strategists are lighting candles in the hope that Palin doesn’t enter the race. It could set off a fierce range war among Bachmann, Perry and Palin for conservative support, one that could drag deep into the primaries and result in a surfeit of bruised egos and feelings. Who would benefit? Likely Romney—and perhaps, ultimately, Obama.
  5. She can’t win.  Palin has never shown the potential to capture the votes of mainstream, centrist Americans in the numbers that she needs to win the White House. And now, polls in Iowa and elsewhere show her support among Republicans shrinking, even as respondents say they like and admire her--a recognition on their part perhaps that she is better suited to be an outside agitator in the party rather than a candidate for office.

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