DANI ALEXIS RYSKAMP: Mike Huckabee’s advisor has jumped ship, leaving a gap among religious GOPers that’s free for the taking – in theory. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is inching ahead in all-important New Hampshire, but the Huckabee gap is the perfect place for Sarah Palin to shoulder her way into the front and center of the GOP nomination race.
I’m torn on Palin. On the one hand, I want to believe that Mitt Romney has this one in the bag. I’m a Michigander with no love for anything attached to the name “Romney,” but a Republican who expanded his state’s health care and who isn’t throwing around anti-Semitic slurs after Rep. Giffords’ shooting is exactly who I want running against President Obama in 2012. While Palin’s been out there shooting – er – her mouth off and applauding Bristol’s mad dance skills, Romney has been shaking hands and kissing babies. I hope they have been the right hands and the right babies.
On the other hand, is there any stopping Palin at this point? Even her monumental incoherence seems to encourage rather than repel the press. Things are so bad that even Dana Milbank at the Washington Post has declared February a “Palin-free month.” Heck, now we even seem to think Palin’s very existence is the advent of American feminism, even though there’s nothing feminist about the policies she supports.
Where is the GOP 2012 race going, and why are we in this handbasket?
HOWARD MEGDAL: So let me get this straight: despite no evidence of a drop in support among Republicans, Sarah Palin’s inelegant response to the Arizona shootings is the moment her chances of receiving the 2012 GOP presidential nomination disappeared?
Sorry, I don’t buy it.
Oh, Palin’s numbers have dropped a bit among independents and even Democrats, if you can believe there was somewhere for them to drop. But prior to Arizona, Palin’s case certainly didn’t rely on electability- she consistently polled worse than her GOP rivals in state after state against Obama.
It was within the GOP itself that she continued to poll extremely well. Her popularity is only equaled, among those talked about for the 2012 race, by Mike Huckabee. It is no coincidence, by the way, that Palin and Huckabee are the most-favored of the religious right, whose support will likely be the difference in both Iowa and South Carolina early on.
The problem with those who believe that Huckabee is what will stop Palin 2012? Huckabee sure doesn’t look like he’s running. He signed a long-term extension with Fox News, bought a huge new house, and as Dani mentioned, his right-hand man took another job. He isn’t building an organization anywhere. He looks like a man who will use the buzz to sell his forthcoming book- but not a man who wants to run in 2012.
And without Huckabee, we’re back to the old question of who stops Palin. Romney? He’s still not trusted by a huge part of the GOP base. Tim Pawlenty? He can’t even sell copies of his book in his home state. Newt Gingrich? Rudy Giuliani?
The comparison has not been made often enough- a politics run on a sense of victimhood by the elite is what unites Sarah Palin and Richard Nixon. The Arizona shootings look, frankly, like “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” Six years later, Nixon won the White House.