Palin in 2012, Revisited

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Basically, I agree with the Ambinder-Cillizza take on the question - namely, that Sarah Palin might well be a formidable contender for the GOP nomination in 2012 even if she's massively unpopular with the sixty-five percent of America that doesn't vote in Republican primaries. In an Obama-era GOP, where the various factions and candidates are competing for control of a increasingly purist rump, isn't hard to see a scenario in which Palin unites evangelical voters and talk-radio conservatives - constituencies that split between Huckabee and either Romney or Fred Thompson, respectively, in 2008 - and rides that bloc to victory against a field that's just as divided as it was in '08.

What's very, very hard, though, is to see how a primary campaign fought and won along those lines would put Palin in a position to actually win the White House - assuming, that is, that Barack Obama doesn't completely fall on his face in the next four years. Not because Obama won't be beatable in 2012 even if his Presidency isn't a disaster, mind you, but because the Sarah Palin whom the base loves at the moment just isn't a candidate who could beat him. Given the way she's presented herself on the campaign trail and/or been used by the McCain campaign, and given the media narrative surrounding her candidacy at the moment, for Palin to be elected President of the United States would require an image makeover even more substantial than the one Hillary Clinton underwent between the late 1990s and this year. (That was the substance of my argument in this post from three weeks ago, and I think it holds true in spades right now.) Such a makeover is by no means impossible - this is America! nothing's impossible! - but running as the candidate of Rush and James Dobson in 2012 isn't going to get her there.

(And speaking of Palin and the GOP, this exchange between Patrick Ruffini and Jon Henke is worth a read.)

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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