“The rehabilitation of Sarah Palin” has begun, said Matthew Continetti in The Wall Street Journal. The former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate this week launched a national media tour with the ostensible purpose of promoting her memoir, Going Rogue. Everyone knows, however, that the conservative populist’s real goal lies beyond the best-seller lists. Sitting down for interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters, and cruising the country in a tour bus with her face on it, Palin is “reintroducing herself” to American voters in preparation for a “possible run for the White House in 2012.” Coyly, she’s claiming that a presidential run is “not on my radar screen right now,” said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. But her promotional tour includes a stop in Iowa, the first primary state, “and you know what that means.” It may seem unthinkable to people like me, but most Republicans “have a quite irrational belief that she would not make a bad president” because she will “act out their resentments” against the media, intellectuals, and blue state sophisticates.
Resentments notwithstanding, Palin doesn’t have a prayer, said Jon Cohen in TheWashingtonPost.com. A new Washington Post/ABC poll this week found that 60 percent of Americans think Palin is unqualified to be president. More daunting still, her unfavorability rating is at a whopping 52 percent. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, said Joan Walsh in Salon.com, so Palin’s “rehab tour” won’t move those numbers. All we’re learning from her book and her interviews is that she is truly a “vindictive, spiteful person.” If she isn’t blaming Katie Couric and the media for “twisting” her incoherent words, or the McCain campaign for mishandling her, she’s fighting a “juvenile tit for tat with her 19-year-old grandbaby-daddy, Levi Johnston.” Seriously, if you can’t win a PR battle with a teenage high school dropout, are you really the person to negotiate with world leaders, run the federal government, and outwit al Qaida?
Winning elections isn’t about governing, said DeWayne Wickham in USA Today. It’s “about being able to campaign,” and the simple truth is that Palin has more charisma than Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and all other potential GOP nominees put together. Not only that, said Walter Shapiro in PoliticsDaily.com, but the Republican winner-take-all primary system could play to Palin’s advantage. Social-conservative activists—who absolutely adore Palin—often play a major role in Iowa. If she wins there, and the various other Republican contenders split the vote, as they did in 2008, she could wind up winning the nomination by taking just 30 percent or 40 percent of the overall vote.
But then what? said Rod Dreher in Beliefnet.com. Like many conservatives, I was initially enthusiastic about Palin’s addition to John McCain’s moribund ticket last year, and I was appalled by some of the “nasty, disgusting attacks” on her during the campaign. But all she offers are “right-wing buzzwords”; a set of self-contradictory, populist notions (Wall Street and corporations, bad; capitalism, good); and her small-town persona. “She is so far from being capable of being president of the United States it’s not even funny.” Even if she doesn’t win the nomination in 2012, said Rich Lowry in National Review Online, the GOP will need the votes of “the roiling grassroots revolt” she represents. Whether as a candidate or as a powerbroker, Palin has to be “part of the Republican answer to Obama.”