Will the White House Play the Palin Card?

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So here's the scenario. The Democrats who craft political strategy for the party have tried to figure out how to somehow use the Tea Party moment to provide an advantage to their base. When the Tea Partiers, collectively, are in economic libertarian mode, Democrats can't make much noise.

But when Tea Partiers are in "elect someone like Christine O'Donnell mode," Democrats sense an opportunity. Simply put, the crazier the Tea Party seems, the more Democrats can link the Republican agenda to its source of energy, which in turn fires up rank-and-file Democrats.

At this point, you're probably saying: "Thank you, Captain Obvious," or something less charitable. But the background is necessary because there IS a way, a sure-fire way, to energize the Democratic base, to even pull the attention of the "professional left" away from disappointment and criticism of Democrats for a moment. 

Tying the mainstream GOP to the Tea Party is a topic under discussion in the White House. But how? Trying to make John Boehner a foil for the election, or even Jim DeMint, or even Glenn Beck, is like spending half of the amount you've budgeted for a nice wool suit. Instead of Dolce and Gabbana, you wear Kenneth Cole.

There is, in fact, a much better avatar of the Tea Party movement, someone whose very name provokes disgust among Democrats, someone whose name identification is 100 percent and whose ubiquity is extremely useful.

That person is Sarah Palin.  All that's required is for the President to utter her name a couple of times. The Fox-Rush-Redstate nexus would explode. Palin would bask in the attention and respond. And respond. And respond. The press would cover the story and ask why the President would elevate Sarah Palin? David Broder might write a column bemoaning the fact that the President chose politics over the institution of the presidency, which is supposed to respect the dignity of all Americans.

Elevate Sarah Palin? How much higher can she go? Everyone knows her.  Some of Obama's advisers have argued in the past that the attention paid to Palin by Americans in the last stages of the 2008 campaign is one reason why Obama was able to win so cleanly.

Palin and the Tea Party movement are not the same thing. The movement, evolving out of movement conservatism, is principally about government and the economy. Palin revels in the culture wars. But when that part of the Tea Party that does care about social issues becomes the story, linking the two in the public's mind is easier.

Yes, the election is about control of Congress. But at a larger level, it's about competing visions of the world. John Boehner v. the Democratic agenda is a boring contrast. Many Democrats couldn't tell a Boehner from a Cantor. But everyone knows who Sarah Palin is. 

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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