Yes, I said Palin for president
In my last column, I presented reasons why Sarah Palin should not be dismissed as a presidential hopeful. Because one column alone couldn't cover everything, I offer another cluster of reasons below, starting with an important one: She has time.
Palin can wait until the last possible moment to officially file her intent to run. Others who have already filed or are looking to file need to start developing traction-generating strategies now. However, Palin has both name recognition and the ability to quickly raise the funds needed to pull together a massive organization in the key early states. This media-savvy political professional can decide when it is the right time for her to file.
She voluntarily kept a low profile after her response to the Arizona shootings earlier this year brought her so much negative publicity. Prior to the tragedy, Palin on her website had politically targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (a victim of the shootings) district and others, using the crosshairs of a rifle sight. She, somewhat gracefully, retired from the public scene for a respectable time before re-emerging at the Rolling Thunder rally in Washington, D.C.
Another reason Palin may get the GOP nod: She can get away with stunts that would sink any other politician. Can you imagine former Gov. Mitt Romney crashing a non-political event for our veterans (Rolling Thunder) for obvious political gain?
When Palin emerged from her self-imposed media blackout, the press folks behaved as if they were starved for her. No other Republican contender can generate her kind of excitement, positive or negative.
A just-released Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll found that almost 4-in-10 Republicans are unhappy with their party's current choices for nominee. Results like these lead to a perceived vacuum that candidates such as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann feel positioned to fill. Donald Trump felt poised to fill it. He floated his trial balloon only to see it popped in short order.
The Republican Party has taken a significant shift to the political right. I can remember the days when the party was an inclusive organization. But, Republican legends like former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, Sen. Jacob Javits of New York and Clifford Case of New Jersey are gone with history.
Palin certainly doesn't fill that void, but she may be served by it. Of all the people set to cash in if the tea party retains its strength, Palin may be first among them.
Why? Let me explain: Moderate Republicans are in danger of extinction. After the 2008 election, some polls showed the GOP barely had the public's support. So, the party decided to work with this faction. It concentrated on issues that brought them storming to town hall meetings and into the election booth.
Unfortunately for the pragmatists who run the party, they birthed the tea party Republicans. Tea partiers ran in the primaries and won. Now they are strong enough to tell Speaker John Boehner what his limits are. And they do.
They aren't done. Tea party Republicans are fielding candidates against the handful of moderates who remain in the party such as Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Tea party Republicans tolerate no dissent from their political orthodoxy. They are out -- successfully, I believe -- to purge the party of all to their left, and even some to their right. Meanwhile, at the heart of the Republican Party, are leaders like Bachmann who are eager to fill the void and who see Palin as a real threat. Ed Rollins, Bachmann's campaign manager (a veteran strategist), took a swipe at Palin this week (then retreated).
Whether we agree with them, when Bachmann and Palin preach -- oops, I mean "campaign" -- you know they believe what they are saying. Both are pretty brunettes who can't help but cut into each other's support because they appeal to the same base. It is from that fractured base that I imagine Palin ascending.
Palin is the candidate with the most crossover appeal between groups. She can talk to the tea partiers, the radicals -- even the nearly extinct moderates.
When scripted, she can be rather convincing, especially compared to other candidates. The others are too drab -- in policy, in convictions, in media smarts. They just can't compete with her star power. From here, 2012 looks like a slam-dunk for Sarah Palin.
Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, and a contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill.