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What’s the Palin Rationale?

Back in September, Sarah Palin had this to say about a presidential run:

A reason to run is if nobody else were to step up with the solutions that are needed to get the economy back on the right track and to be so committed to our national security that they are going to do all that they can, including fighting those on the extreme left who seem to want to dismantle some of our national security tools that we have in place.

Now, in an upcoming New York Times Magazine piece, she let’s on that she is engaged in internal discussions about a run, and there really aren’t many policy differences among potential GOP candidates:

Palin went on to say that there weren’t meaningful differences in policy among the field of G.O.P. hopefuls “but that in fact there’s more to the presidency than that” and that her decision would involve evaluating whether she could bring unique qualities to the table. “Yes, the organization would have to change,” Palin said during an hourlong phone conversation.

“I’d have to bring in more people — more people who are trustworthy … I know that a hurdle I would have to cross, that some other potential candidates wouldn’t have to cross right out of the chute, is proving my record. That’s the most frustrating thing for me — the warped and perverted description of my record and what I’ve accomplished over the last two decades. It’s been much more perplexing to me than where the lamestream media has wanted to go about my personal life.”

This raises a few questions. First is a variation on the Roger Mudd to Ted Kennedy question: if the policy differences aren’t great, what is the rationale for her candidacy, which she acknowledges has hurdles that other candidates don’t have? There may be some good reasons for her to run anyway, but she will have to justify it. Second, why hasn’t she she brought on “more trustworthy” people already? Frankly, her pronouncements on foreign policy have been rock-solid and, to a large extent, ahead of the pack of Obama’s conservative critics, but where’s the same level of seriousness on domestic policy? And where’s the strategy to reach out to skeptics rather than simply forge an alliance with the base? Third, if she keeps using phrases like “lamestream media,” that suggests she is still in victim mode and feed-the-base mode, rather than expanding her reach and elevating her stature. To the faithful, that’s a phrase that warms the heart, but to others, it is an eye-roller. Finally, if she is fed up with obsession over her personal life, why is she doing a show about her life in Alaska that is all about her family, nature outings, etc.?

All of this points to the promise and the peril of her candidacy. She can command attention, she has a degree of self-awareness about the challenges, and yet she has trouble leaving her comfort zone. Fundamentally, the questions for her and for her party remain: can she bring something to the race that other candidates can’t, and do her assets outweigh her liabilities? Stay tuned.


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