Sunday, July 3, 2011

Jack Kelly on the Power of Palin

Her critics have already said every bad thing they could say about her.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Jack Kelly makes a compelling case against the conventional wisdom, which says it may be too late for Sarah Palin to get into the 2012 presidential contest. The conventional wise guys are quick to point out that Gov. Palin has done no fundraising (beyond her leadership PAC, but she can't use those funds for a presidential run), she hasn't built a campaign team, and some of her supporters who believe the media narrative that she will not run are turning to active candidates such as Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

But the conventional wisdom has a fatal flaw, cautions Kelly. It is "more conventional than wise." Traditionally, candidates have needed to get an early start to build name recognition, and they require a campaign organization mainly to energize supporters to get out and vote. And that's where the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee may have the conventional wisdom beat.

Sarah Palin has some 3.2 million followers on Facebook. That's 800,000 more than all the declared GOP candidates combined, Kelly points out. Palinistas are not the sort of supporters who need to be motivated either to show up at the polls or to stuff envelopes and knock on doors. All Mamma Grizzly has to do is say the word, and they will hit the ground working for her. As recent events in Pella, Iowa have demonstrated, many of them are already doing that.

Also working in Sarah Palin's favor, Kelly observes, are the RNC's new rules, which favor late entrants. He predicts that the highly touted early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are more likely to prune a crowded field than to produce a clear front runner. The fewer the candidates in the debates, Kelly argues, the more they will matter. For Sarah Palin, the debates will be crucial.

Because the media/Hollywood left and their fellow travelers in the Vichy wing of the Republican Party have been denigrating her 24/7 for the last three years, Sarah Palin needs to build her poll numbers, especially among independents, which is where the campaign against her has had the most impact. But even that factor can still be turned around:
A new documentary, "The Undefeated," opens with a montage of vicious things celebrities have said about Ms. Palin. Viewers at the premier in Pella, Iowa, Tuesday were shocked.

But efforts to portray Ms. Palin as a shrill, stupid snowbilly backfired on the journalists who sought the release of 24,000 emails from her time as Alaska governor. The emails "brought back the memory of a long-lost Palin: the popular, charismatic competent woman of the people," who "comes across as practical and not doctrinaire," and who is "far from being a knee-jerk partisan," wrote Molly Ball in Politico.

Liberals hope their sliming of her will keep Ms. Palin from running. But it may be the most important reason why she should.


Many "mainstream" journalists have abandoned all pretense of fairness, but still expect to be treated as if they were honest brokers. Most Republicans oblige them.

Sarah Palin doesn't. She uses social media to bypass news media "gatekeepers." That's one reason so many journalists hate her. They seethe even more because Ms. Palin uses their obsession with her to make them look ridiculous, as she did during her bus vacation in the Northeast last month.


But her critics have shot their bolt where Sarah Palin is concerned. They've already said every bad thing they could say about her.

"The Undefeated," strives to set the record straight. The people in Pella who saw it liked it very much. But most Americans won't see it.

Which is why debates will be so important if Ms. Palin runs. In them, she'll either conform to the caricature of her -- or demolish it.

Gov. Palin should do well in the debates. She used a strong debate performance in the 2006 GOP primary and general elections in Alaska to turn the conventional wisdom upside down and win a governor's race the conventional wise guys had said she had little chance of winning. Two years later, she surprised the pundits, as well as Joe Biden, in a vice presidential debate after which a number of observers, including a Frank Luntz focus group, judged her to be the winner.

An email dump in Alaska which showed her to be a good governor and the media to be actively working to try to destroy her, a documentary which drives those points home to all who will see it except for the hard left, an army of grassroots supporters who will -- as Kelly notes -- "crawl over ground glass" for her, new RNC rules which favor candidates willing to bide their time until many of their opponents have severely wounded themselves and their rivals, and a talent to excel in debate settings are all key elements Sarah Palin has working in her favor in this election cycle. All she has to do is say the word, and the game is on. But she has already said that, hasn't she?

h/t: M. Joseph Sheppard

- JP

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