A lot of speculation is going on over whether Sarah Palin will run for president in 2012, fueled by some of her recent statements (just Google it if you live in a barn). I think it's the right time for her, but for it to be successful, history gives us some clues as to what needs to happen beforehand.
With the repudiation of Obama's agenda on 11/2, it is clear (to everyone except senior level Democrats) that Americans are sick of the spending binge, and recognize it as a failure. They expected the President to focus on restoring the economy, while instead he chose to ram through a rotten Pork package (Stimulus 1), followed it up with a second attempt (Omnibus), then focused on Health Care for 18 months. During this time he made over 30 speeches, each one making it less popular, ultimately ending in the election of Scott Brown and the passage of Obamacare over the objections of the American people. As I sit here today, I am amazed that this administration, Pelosi, and Reid thought this was good politics, or even good policy. Just amazed. I am further amazed that they continue along the meme that their 11/2 defeat was all a "communication" problem. PLEASE! For 2 years, Obama was on our TV's constantly, usually with the undying love and adoration of the mainstream media, pushing some part of his agenda.
What will Obama, et.al. do?
Nancy Pelosi's choice to remain Minority Leader signals that the Dem's House leadership clearly didn't get the message of Nov 2. For the GOP, her continued leadership is a God-send. A wonderful gift that will keep her front and center in the minds of Americans for the next two years and a great tool for 2012 GOP Congressional candidates ("Will you vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker?"). Oh, and has anyone seen an actual budget for 2011 yet? Dems are still working on it...
At the White House, it seems all disarray. Obama goes overseas, where he continues his incompetence tour. Failing to sign a South Korean Free Trade Treaty, and getting continually scolded for our attempts to devalue the Dollar, as China does the same with the Yuan, risking a global currency war. Like previous efforts at the Chicago Olympics, and the Global Climate Change Conference, this President seems to believe that his mere presence actually can cause the oceans to recede and the planet to cool. Memo to Obama - your presence can not even get a bunch of Euro-weenies to agree to things they are already inclined to, and certainly your "Asian" life experience has NO meaning to our real Asian partners (and actual practitioners of Capitalism).
Back home, uber-campaign strategist David Axelrod (I guess he's looking forward to getting back to the campaign trail, since he likewise is an incompetent advisor on policy) signaled this week that the administration would likely agree on extending the Bush tax cuts (and preventing a huge tax increase) for ALL Americans for some time. Once the Left challenged this, though, the president himself started backing away.
Against this backdrop of incompetency, we have to consider whether Obama has the political survival instincts of Bill Clinton. The answer: No.
He will instead choose hand-to-hand combat against the GOP, clinging to his policies and far left ideology. This will result in gridlock, a defunding of Obamacare, and numerous challenges to him. Some Dems will recognize the potential for complete 2012 electoral disaster, and will start looking for a primary challenger. They will hope to find it in Hillary Clinton. Despite Hillary's statements that she will never run for president again, I can not believe that a desperate Democrat party, looking at even greater losses in the House and Senate in 2012, and faced with a strong case against Obama, will not look for Hillary first to save them. So, condition number one to a Palin presidency is the Obama must face at lease a credible primary challenger in 2012 Hillary clearly would fill that bill, but others could, as well. Already we hear talk of Evan Bayh (who retired rather than lose his Senate seat) and Jim Webb (who will probably lose his in 2012, so why not set the stage for even a 2016 presidential run with a 2012 dry run), and others being in the mix (Howard Dean is mentioned, though I think a credible run will come from Obama's right, not his left).
In the recent past, sitting presidents have only lost re-election when they have faced significant primary challenges. Eugene McCarthy and RFK forced LBJ to not even seek re-election in 1968. Jimmy Carter faced a challenge from another Kennedy, Teddy, in 1996. Bush 1 faced Pat Buchanan in 1992. All lost re-election. This is the surest sign that Obama is doomed.
Defeating an incumbent president is a challenge in any year. Obama will be even tougher, regardless of how bad things get, because the Union money machine will crank away a get out the vote effort, and with Obama on the ticket again, blacks will vote in massive numbers again in 2012 for him. The youth vote, so important in 2008, not so much (my prediction).
For the GOP to maintain the momentum built up in 2009-2010, it is critically important that the energy behind the Tea Parties remains on their side. The surest way to make this happen, is for Sarah Palin to stay engaged in the movement and politically active. It's not really going to be enough for Palin to become kingmaker. She must get in the arena, and, 2012 is the perfect time. Quite honestly, her supporters will demand this, and without her on the ticket in 2012, will those Tea Party patriots be engaged enough to offset the advantages the Dems start with (with Obama)? I don't think so.
Palin's path forward provides the GOP with both opportunity and challenges. The opportunity is really the reestablishment of the fiscal-social conservative block that was Reagan's. Palin fuses both of these better than any current candidate. Hey, I love Jim Demint, but he doesn't energize people like Palin. Huckabee? He's a populist, who would be bad for fiscal conservatives and would turn off tea partiers. Romney - just a little too polished, and that Massachusetts health care is an albatross around his neck. Goverrnors Jindal and Daniels - I just don't see it.
The challenge - well, let's say someone viewed as an establishment candidate wins the GOP nomination in 2012 against Palin and it's perceived that the GOP establishment was complicit in her defeat. Without her on the ticket, I could see a scenario where Tea Partiers and social conservatives say they are done and push a 3rd party/Independent run for Palin. I think some things may help this along in the next two years. Chief among them will be how the GOP handles control of the House, and the de facto agenda setting they will enjoy on Capital Hill the next two years. If Tea Partiers are happy with the GOP's leadership, then they will be less inclined to support that third party run by Palin. But, if the GOP stumbles and makes these voters angry, I expect you'd see massive support for a Palin 3rd party run. My thought is you'd also see certain recently elected GOP senators/representatives jumping on. Would it be too hard to imagine a Palin/Demint ticket?
Should that happen, we may finally see the end of the GOP. I can't say that I would miss it, given the above scenario.