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Palin 2012, From This Vantage Point, Looks Probable

Last night at the “Gathering of the Egos” event in Minneapolis, Sean Hannity apparently pined for a Palin-Bachmann ticket in 2012. The audience in attendance, which numbered in the thousands, ate it up.

And why wouldn’t they? While it’s obviously very early, I’m starting to agree with Chris Bowers that Palin looks destined to be the GOP nominee in 2012, even though polls show her lagging the most behind President Obama of any potential Republican challenger. Nobody generates the kind of excitement she does, which will be crucial in closed primaries and caucuses. And there doesn’t look to be much competition:

1. Huckabee is unlikely to run, and his evangelical / born again base (virtually all Huckabee voters in 2008 were evangelicals) is a lot closer to Sarah Palin than they are to Mitt Romney. So, Palin will likely start ahead in national polls among declared candidates.

2. Romney’s strength in 2008 was in caucuses, which are dominated by dedicated activists. Of the 11 states that Romney won in 2008, three were “home” states (MA, where he was Governor; MI where his father was Governor; and UT for religion), and the other eight were all caucuses. However, Romney isn’t going to win many caucuses if he is facing a candidate who can draw 10,000 people to a rally in early 2010, not to mention what is likely a tarnished reputation among Republican activists after the health care fight.

3. Palin’s grassroots strength will provide her with all the funding she needs, and also goes a long way to pre-empting any possible insurgent candidacy against her. This will especially be the case if Ron Paul runs again, since Paul can’t win the nomination but would soak up pretty much all of the remaining grassroots energy on the Republican side.

4. Say what you will about Palin’s ability as a campaigner, but if gaffes were going to make her unpopular among Republicans, it would have happened already.

Really the only way this doesn’t happen is if the Republican establishment, fearing disaster, steps in and anoints a separate candidate, and basically savages Palin with a whisper campaign or something. But she has basically been made stronger, despite her incredible string of missteps, since the 2008 campaign. And I don’t know if the Republican graybeards even matter much anymore.

We’ll get an early test of Palin’s strength at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. The former half-term Governor will be on stage with basically all the other major candidates for the 2012 nomination, in front of a horde of Republican activists.

For all I know Palin won’t run – she seems to me cultivating a reality show career – but if she does, I’m not sure how she loses the nomination.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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