Why Republicans Will Never Nominate Sarah Palin for President

Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin is one of the most influential Republican figures today. Her “mamma-grizzly” endorsements have won a surprising number of victories, and much of the Republican base holds admiration for her. It is almost natural, then, that many pundits consider her as a front-runner or strong candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination.

Democrats like this. They salivate at the prospect of a Palin candidacy, believing that her unpopularity with non-Republicans will enable any standard-fare Democratic candidate to crush her in a presidential election. This belief is probably true; it would take a remarkable set of circumstances for Ms. Palin to win a general election against Mr. Obama.

But Republicans know just as well as Democrats do that Ms. Palin could not win a general election. That is why they will never nominate former governor Sarah Palin for president, no matter how popular she is amongst the Republican base.

American voters are incredibly brutal when it comes to the test of viability. If voters do not think that a candidate has a chance of winning, they will abandon that candidate in the blink of an eye. A vote for a candidate they like but who cannot win, the logic goes, is effectively a vote for a candidate they really dislike and who stands a strong chance of winning. Better to vote for somebody who stands a chance of defeating the candidate they really dislike.

This problem has bedeviled political campaigns throughout American history. In the 2008 presidential primaries, victims included John Edwards and Bill Richardson on the Democratic side, and Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani on the Republican side. It is a problem that faces every third-party candidacy in the United States – and precious few of them overcome it.

It is also something that will curse Ms. Palin if she ever runs in the Republican primary. Ms. Palin cannot possibly win in the general election, her opponents will charge, so a vote for her is effectively a vote for President Barack Obama. There is nothing Ms. Palin can really say to this, because it is true. While Republicans might personally like Ms. Palin, they will not vote for her. She might be polling well right now, but that support is ephemeral. It will melt away as quickly as Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s did in 2008.

All in all, this is probably a good thing. There is always the chance, of course, that Ms. Palin could actually get elected if nominated. This could happen, for instance, if unemployment is at double-digits in 2012. And Sarah Palin, for all her political celebrity, would probably not make a very good president.

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6 Responses to Why Republicans Will Never Nominate Sarah Palin for President

  1. Hi, I’m having issues loading your blog. Just roughly half of your page seems to load, and the remaining is just empty. I’m not quite sure why…. but you might like to check it out. I’ll check back later, as it could be my browser fault.

    • inoljt says:

      Hmm…it might be because my blog has a ton of images, and so loading might be slower.

      I know that has been the case when I’ve checked the blog with slower computers. I’ll think of something.

  2. You are giving republicans a lot of credit if you think they wouldn’t nominate her. I thought that back in 2008, however after seeing how wishy washy the overall electorate is, I fear that not only does she have a shot at becoming the republican party nominee…I think she also has chance to become… I can’t even say it. Republicans may not govern well, but they do know how to win elections and manipulate Americans minds. Of course a lot can change in two years. If the economy starts to rebound then I don’t think that Obama can lose in 2012. Unfortunately for Obama, it’s basically him and his team vs the world. There are no good messengers in the democratic party anymore. Republicans are usually always on message and if someone isn’t on the same page then they are booted out. I do hope you are right however that Republicans do not nominate her or any other tea bagger for that matter, but I’m not nieve to think that it’s not within possibility.

    • inoljt says:

      You are right that the Republican machine is quite effective; in the 24-hour news cycle is generally wins the majority of battles (it wasn’t a coincidence that the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy exploded just before the mid-terms. But I think the Republican machine knows not to nominate Palin; nor do I think many Republicans nowadays seriously could consider her as a president. I’m not sure even Palin can think of herself as president.

  3. centauri says:

    I think you may be underestimating the growing disconnection from electoral reality in today’s GOP. It has been mentioned on SSP that the striking success of the tea-flavored candidates in Republican primaries is primarily due to sizable numbers of moderate Republicans leaving the party in recent years, shifting the party’s center of gravity to the right. I realize you wrote this before O’Donnell won in Delaware, but if the Palinists can knock off the party’s elder statesman – a fairly safe bet to win in November – in one of the most stereotypically moderate states in the nation, they can in theory do it anywhere. The catch, of course, is that because teabagging seems to be a winning ideological niche, more candidates in a presidential primary will try to occupy it, and I believe that Palin is likely to be out-Palined if she runs for President in 2012. But if she is able to prevent that, she has a real chance at the nomination, particularly if Romney is the establishment choice.

    Also, McCain won primarily due to his lack of glaring ideological faults. Giuliani was far too socially liberal; Romney was tarred with the same brush by being governor of liberal MA (and was a Mormon); Huckabee was too wobbly on economics for the country-club set. Compared to these issues, I doubt electability versus the Democrats played more than a minor role. On the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton thought electability was her trump card against Barack Obama… and we all know how that turned out.

    (I’ve been reading this blog for some time and have been impressed by your work. I only comment now because it’s the first time I’ve had any disagreement to express!)

    • inoljt says:

      Yep, this post was written before O’Donnell won in Delaware; I’d seen the PPP showing her ahead and could not entirely believe it until she actually won. What an amazing race to watch!

      I think, however, there’s a difference between nominating one Senator and nominating the candidate for the president of the United States. There are 100 Senators, each of which is not actually that powerful. There’s only one president, and you really don’t want to throw away the presidency by nominating a crazy – although it has happened in the past (see McGovern, Goldwater). But it’s quite rare. I remember speaking with a fairly conservative, intelligent Tea Party supporter, and we started talking about Sarah Palin. He liked her, but he also thought “Obama would crush her” in a general election if she were nominated. I bet a lot of Republicans think that way.

      Thanks for commenting!

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