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Would Sarah Palin ever really leave the GOP?
She says she might help build a third party if Republicans abandon true conservatives
"See ya!"
"See ya!" AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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arah Palin still knows how to make headlines. The former Republican vice-presidential candidate, returning to Fox News as a contributor after a six-month absence, was asked in a tweet by a viewer whether she would ever consider leaving the GOP. Palin replied that she would if the party "continues to back away from the planks in our platform, from the principles that built this party of Lincoln and Reagan."

Does she mean it? The Right Scoop suggests that the former Alaska governor might make good on her threat if the Republican Party goes soft in its defense of conservative values. Palin is not the first one to fire this "warning shot over the bow of the GOP," the blog notes — conservative radio commentator Mark Levin has said he might abandon the GOP, and the viewer was asking Palin if she would bolt, too, to help create a "Freedom Party."

If this doesn't open the eyes of the Republicans to what they are doing, then I fear a third party is exactly what will happen. [The Right Scoop]

The idea of Palin saying goodbye to the party that turned her into a star seems a bit far-fetched to many people, however. For one thing, as Joe Gandelman notes at The Moderate Voice, "starting a SUCCESSFUL third party is very difficult." The last person to come close, Gandelman says, was Ross Perot in 1992, but the best third party candidates can usually hope for is to siphon votes from one of the major party candidates. The system, he says, is "rigged against third party success."

Leaving the GOP also would also mean sacrificing the kingmaker role Palin has been able to play since she quit her job as Alaska's governor in 2009 to become a roving conservative celebrity. Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway suggests that's a big reason it's so hard to believe Palin would ever really consider abandoning the party. "Palin isn't at all serious when she says things like this," Mataconis says, "because she knows that her brand depends on being able to sit on the outside of Republican candidates, criticize people like [Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio who are actually doing something about the problems facing this country, and step in from time to time with endorsements for acceptable grassroots candidates, most of whom are likely already heading toward victory."

This is really just Sarah being Sarah, meaning that she's back to her usual schtick of saying things designed to get her attention that she has no intention of following through with. Kind of like she spent the run-up to the 2012 presidential campaign letting her supporters think she was actually seriously thinking about running for president. [Outside the Beltway]

That does not mean Palin's threat will go unnoticed. It could reinforce her recent criticism of Republicans — such as Rubio, Jeff Flake, and Kelly Ayotte — for helping push the Gang of Eight's immigration overhaul through the Senate, despite strong objections from the conservative base over a provision that would give the 11 million people living in the U.S. without proper papers a path to citizenship. Palin wants to discourage Republicans in the House from going along.

Gandelman shows that the GOP's rebranding as a party that welcomes minority and women voters is "now all but virtually dead and how difficult any attempts to change the current conservative political entertainment media complex/Tea Party brand will be." It also proves, as Polly Davis Doig at Newser puts it, that "going rogue never gets old."

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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