by Dave Weigel
Mark Halperin writes the 153,893th paean to Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies" video (if an alien civilization just began observing Earth, it would think she invented YouTube) in a manner calculated to irritate liberals.
A new TIME poll shows Palin losing to Obama 55% to 34%, a lopsided margin that leads some Republican strategists to predict a wipeout if Palin is eventually chosen as the party's nominee. But that might not matter... Her candidacy would require almost none of the usual time sinks that force politicians to jump in early: power-broker schmoozing, schedule-intensive fundraising, competitive recruitment of experienced strategists, careful policy development. She would have immediate access to cash, with even small Internet donations likely bringing in millions.
You read that if you're a liberal who cannot stand this woman (but clicks on every article about her), you wonder what the hell Halperin is talking about. Really, even conservatives think it's a problem that a Palin 2012 bid would not include "careful policy development." How long have they been saying she's in a unique position to talk about energy and offshore drilling? How many unlettered appearances have we seen from her now, discussing that topic?
But Halperin is right about Palin in the media that's going to actually cover the 2012 election. This media is not going to care about her policies. If policies come up during debates, and she gives the same answers she gives on Fox now, and Mitt Romney pounces on her, the story will not be that the GOP's frontrunner gave a pallid answer. The story will be that Mitt Romney pounced. What does this do to his image? What does Mike Huckabee have to say about it?
And so on. It's hard to imagine Palin competing at the policy level the press claims she needs to get to, but easy to imagine her competing at the level they actually play on. Quick, cast your mind back to the countless 2007/2008 Democratic debates. Do you remember Hillary's mastery of policy? No. You remember her fumbling an answer on drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants, you remember Obama telling her she was "likable enough," and perhaps you remember Dennis Kucinich talking about aliens.
After 18 months in the spotlight with journalists treating her every tweet like fire from Olympus. Palin has to know how this works. Which is why Halperin is right.