If Sarah Palin runs for President in 2012, I have a difficult time imagining someone else winning the Republican nomination. While this is pretty good news for Democrats, as Palin polls worse against Obama than almost any other Republican (see also PPP polling), it is also pretty scary. A continually weak economy--which is very possible--could actually make her President less than three years from now.Huckabee is the big variable here. I don't think he'll run, but if he doesn't rule himself out early Palin might not get in. Her career over the past two years shows a politician who, when confronted with a choice between putting in difficult, tough work and reaping easy gains, chooses the latter every time. If Huck bows out and his support mostly goes to Sarah, and the polls have her up by 10% or so, my guess is that she'll get in. If, on the other hand, she's neck and neck with Romney, she won't. Palin sees herself in elevated terms and would likely want to avoid the demeaning chores of the two-year job of being a presidential candidate, but she would get in if she thought it was a gimme and she could just do big rallies every once in a while. Of course, she might get in even if it doesn't seem like a sure thing, but it also seems entirely possible that her campaign might turn out the same as another candidate who hoped to coast on media skills, celebrity and laurels, who wrote off so many contests and just hoped that inevitability would carry him across the finish line. There are a number of similarities between Palin and Rudy Giuliani. What a mind-bender that ticket would be.
I have to say that I'm not terribly worried about Palin actually becoming president. Sure, a weak economy is a weak economy, but I don't think there's much of a reason to think she'll be a competent candidate. Part of the reason a lot of people started taking Obama seriously because he ran a disciplined, professional campaigned that was staffed with talented people. Obama, in other words, proved himself to be a good manager and an excellent judge of character and ability as a candidate, which are strengths that translated into a successful presidency. Palin has proven herself to be a slouch in all these respects, raiding the dregs of the McCain campaign for staff (e.g. Randy Schunemann), and her record as a manager is sketchy at best. Obama proved himself to be a competitor who thrived on pressure, not to mention an effective closer. Palin proved herself to be a basketcase under pressure. This whole thing about the Tea Parties strikes me as equivalent to the 70s-era New Left--an enthusiasm rather than a true movement. Perhaps appealing to nation wanting to blow off steam about a lousy economy, but doomed as soon as it has to put out a realistic agenda. And, of course, Nixon wasn't really running on a rock-solid economy in 1972.
Or so I hope. But I continue to think that a Palin candidacy would be every bit as bad for the right as George McGovern was for the left. Both were/are extremely out of their depth on that platform, and when one considers that Palin can basically only do one thing, and that it's continually being proven that that one thing isn't really that popular with voters, I'm not that gloomy at this point. Actually, it could be great--the sort of thing that could break the back of the angry noise machine if she loses in a landslide. I think you'll start to see the White House making subtle barbs at Palin starting after the midterm elections, with other Democrats making more obvious swipes at her, in hopes that there will be a Clinton effect in which attacks from the outside make Republicans rally around Palin.