Palin's possible 2012 run: Winners and losers

It looks like Mama Grizzly might make a run at the White House after all. Who benefits, and who gets hurt, if she joins the race?

If Sarah Palin decides to run president, other potential GOP candidates, like Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman, could see a boost in their chances.
(Image credit: Shepard Sherbell/Corbis)

Will she or won't she? Speculation is once again building over whether Sarah Palin will run for president, as politicians and pundits read the many signs (a national bus tour, a new house in Arizona, a feature-length biopic) coming out of her camp. While the Mama Grizzly's rivals are betting she won't run, her re-emergence "could dramatically shake up the field," says Jordan Fabian at The Hill. Here, a look at who stands to gain — or lose — if Palin jumps into the race:


Mitt Romney

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"Nothing panics veteran GOP pols like the idea of having Sarah Palin at the top of the 2012 presidential ticket," says John Ellis at Business Insider. She could do a huge amount of damage to down-ballot candidates who count on a strong presidential contender from their party to help with voter turnout. That fear could drive the GOP establishment to back Romney. Indeed, Romney's campaign "strongly believes" that a challenge from Palin would only help him win "more easily," says Mike Allen at Politico. Palin would also likely steal attention from lesser-known Republicans who might otherwise challenge Romney.

President Obama

The president's advisers see Palin as very beatable in a general election, but also believe that Palin could win the Republican nomination "by appealing to the party's conservative, religious wing," says Michael D. Shear in The New York Times. And even if she loses in the primaries, the winning Republican would have been "pulled to the right" in order to compete with Palin, making them less appealing to a general election audience. "Either way, Mr. Obama's advisers believe he would benefit politically." That's an understatement, says Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. The mood at the White House "must border on unbridled jubilation."

Jon Hunstman

Palin's entrance could also create a strategic opening for the former governor of Utah and Obama's ex-ambassador to China, says John Ellis at Business Insider. "With Palin soaking up the oxygen amongst social conservatives and Romney not exciting more 'traditional' GOP voters," Huntsman could slide in as the surprise winner.


Michele Bachmann

The Minnesota congresswoman "stands to be especially hurt" if Palin enters the race, says John McCormick at Bloomberg News, because the two candidates "would compete for much the same constituency": Tea Party activists and social conservatives. "Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed, they're both women," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. Bachmann's potential candidacy "only gained traction in the last few months," when it looked like Palin would not run. But if Palin jumps in, things may be a whole lot tougher for Bachmann.

Tim Pawlenty

Palin would, of course, "take attention away from other challengers," says NBC News. That's especially problematic for Pawlenty, who's positioning himself as a viable alternative to Romney, and a candidate that social conservatives can get behind. But "Palin makes it harder for Pawlenty to raise money," says Ellis at Business Insider. "She makes it harder for him to gather social conservative political support. She makes it really, really hard for him to get media attention." And she would make it harder for him to come away with a crucial, momentum-building win in the Iowa caucuses.

Other conservatives

If Palin decides to run, "the most interesting aspect" of her campaign "will be the way she attacks her fellow Republicans, and how they attack her back," says Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic. Palin is "too feisty to keep Reagan's 11th Commandment: 'Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.'" If she comes under attack from GOP rivals — which seems almost certain in a fiercely-fought campaign — how will her fans and the conservative media react? "The uncertainty is reason enough for many conservatives to hope that she doesn't run. Useful in firing up the base prior to the 2010 midterms, Palin is now more trouble for them than she's worth."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.