Recently, I wrote a post about the media's odd propensity to treat George W. Bush as a political punchline while treating Sarah Palin as a presidential heavyweight -- even though they have very similar (lousy) poll numbers. Palin's high negatives are one reason why I think her presidential prospects tend to be exaggerated. However, correspondent D.P. writes in to suggest that I might have it wrong:
For whatever it's worth (and this isn't highly original), I don't think Palin's general unpopularity quashes her presidential chances. It seems to me that you need to look at her chances in two steps: ability to secure the GOP nomination, and then chances in the general election. Her popularity with the base suggests that she could win the GOP nomination (she of course faces obstacles - lack of a good organization, etc. -- but she's also Jesus for the base).
In normal times, though, she'd get crushed in a general election (and that prospect alone might swing enough Republicans away from her to prevent her from securing the GOP nomination). But these are not normal times. If you stipulate unemployment above 8 percent in 2012 - which may not be the case, but is not implausible - Obama will be extremely unpopular. I think there's a very good chance that any GOP nominee could win the election in that scenario.
This is most the convincing case I've heard for why Palin should be taken seriously. But I'm not persuaded that the "dystopian economy in 2012" scenario, should it come to pass, would necessarily benefit her. I concede that there is, under this scenario, an all-bets-are-off factor that could upend historical trends. Anything's possible. But if Obama truly looks vulnerably, as he may, then it seems to me that Republicans would be all the more determined to nominate an "electable" alternative and maximize their chances of taking back the White House. Palin's negatives are too much of a drag.
That's why her new "Pink Elephants"** video is such an interesting gambit. I think Palin understands her basic dilemma and accepts the critique--or at least feels compelled to address it. The video is nothing so much as a feel-good exercise in buffing up her image, an attempt to humanize her and tamp down her negatives among those women who are still persuadable. If Palin continues in this vein, I'll be more likely to believe she's running for president.
**Just a quibble, but is "pink elephants" really the best phrase to marshal women to her cause? Because if I called my wife a "pink elephant" I think I'd mostly be marshaling animosity