"Like it or not, if Sarah Palin decides to seek our nation's highest office, she has a shot," Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist for the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign, writes in today's Washington Post, before offering Palin a list of advice on how to get there.
Dowd draws a parallel between Palin and Obama, in that each are beloved by members of their own party, and not liked so much by members of the other:
Polls show that Palin's favorability numbers are a mirror image of those of Obama. She is respected and loved by the Republican base, while Democrats despise her. Granted, independent voters have significant reservations about her capability to be president, and this would be a hurdle in the general election. But to win the Republican nomination, Palin needs only to get enough support from the base to win early key states. Already, in nearly every poll today, she has a level of support that makes her a viable primary candidate. Just look at the crowds and the buzz her book tour is drawing.
And it's true: Obama is liked by 88 percent of Demcorats and disliked by 93 percent of Republicans, according to his latest major favorability poll, conducted by Research 2000 for Daily Kos.
Palin, meanwhile, is liked by 70 percent of Republicans and disliked by 62 percent of Democrats, according to Fox.
Dowd's point is that Palin could very well win the GOP nomination, but it's important to remember that not so many people are Republicans these days: about 22 percent of the country identifies as Republican according to Pollster.com's average, vs. 34.6 percent as Democratic and 34.8 percent as independent, meaning a successful GOP primary candidate might not fare as well in the general.
Obama outperforms her among independents: 54 percent like him, and 49 percent like her, according to those two polls.
That said, Dowd gives some good advice to Palin: get out of the bubble of the high-profile media frenzy that surrounds her, stop sparring with Levi, start taking more responsibility for things that didn't go well (like the Couric interview), let criticisms slide, travel the country to listen to people and understand what their fears are, and do some Sunday shows.
One of Palin's problems right now is a relatability gap. At American Thinker, Claude Sandoff references the "deep, joyful connection Palin makes with the middle class," but for every person with whom she connects on that deep, joyful level, there's another who finds her completely alien--a conservative ideologue that floats above the political scene, sending messages down through Facebook, insulated from serious stages of communication by thousands of fanatical followers, and her security detail, at Barnes & Noble stores: not a supremely relatable person, as her supporters see her, but a unipolar force of conservative political energy, and a personality they don't understand.
If one of Palin's greatest attributes is her realness, Dowd's quite practical advice seems to be about acquiring political weight through more conventional means, breaking out of her cult-of-personality appeal, and becoming more real to everyone else.