Can Palin Resurrect The GOP? Does She Want To?

Is Sarah Palin the answer for defeated Republicans? After a historic rebuke at the polls, the Republican Party is staggering into an uncertain tomorrow with the White House and Congress in Democratic hands, no certain leader in sight and its membership divided over what it means to be a Republican.

Ever since her selection as John McCain's running mate in late August, Palin, the 44-year-old Alaska governor, was the star of the GOP ticket, though views of her vary wildly across the political spectrum. With the Republican brand corroded and the hunt on for the next Ronald Reagan, Palin could be one of many people competing to influence Republican ideas in the post-Bush era, maybe even as the party's leader.

"Conservatives are still looking for Mr. Right. And maybe Mr. Right turns out to be Ms. Right," said Bill Whalen, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.

Palin "has built-in national stature and she's beloved by conservative talk radio," Whalen said. But "does she want to be a stay-at-home mom and a stay-at-home governor, or does she want to be a player on the national stage? She has to make a choice."

She has done little to discourage speculation — begun even as McCain's campaign faded — that she could return to the ballot four years from now.

In her hometown of Wasilla in the Anchorage suburbs, "Palin 2012" T-shirts are already for sale.

When she returned to Alaska on Wednesday night after losing the election, she was greeted at the Anchorage airport by chants of "2012! 2012!" Asked by reporters if she might run for president, Palin said, "We'll see what happens then."

Grover Norquist, a leading conservative and president of Americans for Tax Reform, called Palin "one of five or six people who is a plausible candidate for president in 2012," along with familiar names like Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"She's in the top tier, but she's not next in line." Norquist said. Running as vice president "puts you in contention."

Any number of other Republicans may step forward. Romney, the ex-Massachusetts governor who lost the nomination this year, has restarted his political action committee. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is heading to the leadoff caucus state of Iowa on Nov. 22 to deliver the keynote address to a conservative group.

For two intense months, Palin was the youthful foil to the old, sometimes cranky McCain. She was called everything from an empty skirt to the real deal. McCain, in defeat, called her "an impressive new voice in our party."

"She's somewhat of a diamond in the rough," said former Republican National Committee member Barbara Alby, who credits Palin with energizing the ticket. "I expect she'll grow from that."

But any path toward 2012 is filled with obstacles, some of Palin's own making.

Virtually unknown outside Alaska before her nomination, Palin revealed strong — even polarizing — views on religion, abortion and gay marriage.

She became a favorite among some social conservatives, but her cringe-worthy performances in TV interviews raised questions about her competence and provided fodder for late-night comedians. Her charisma attracted tens of thousands to Republican rallies, but voter surveys found her presence tilted a majority of independents and moderates to Barack Obama.

The governor who once won a Miss Congeniality prize was McCain's muscle, thrashing the media and her Democratic rivals in the conventional vice presidential role.

Her national political persona now bears little resemblance to her image as governor, when she was known for pushing a pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska's North Slope, a bipartisan streak and taming the state's Republican establishment.

Some see her as a possible candidate for the Senate, should a vacancy occur, which would give her a new platform for her ambitions. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was clinging to a narrow lead in a re-election bid after being convicted of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms. Palin and others have called for him to step aside, even if he wins.

But Palin has rebuilding to do in Alaska. Voter surveys there show she remains popular, but Democrats are now more likely to view her negatively. On Wednesday, she said she hoped to show President-elect Obama how Alaska could be a leader in energy policy.

"Everybody in Alaska is seeing her in a new light," said Jonathan Anderson, an Alaska Assembly member and a professor at the University of Alaska Southeast.

"We knew she'd been the basketball player and beauty pageant contestant — and not too much more beyond that," said Anderson, a political independent. "She's back down with the human beings now, instead of being the star. Those things are going to follow her."

Mike Cannon, 41, who works on tugboats and fishing vessels, remains a Palin fan but was surprised by her emphasis on conservative social values during the campaign. "I don't agree with a lot of that stuff," he said in downtown Anchorage, nursing a cup of coffee.

The campaign, Cannon added, "revealed more and more of her limitations."

If she wants to lead the party, she'll need to find a way to stay visible in the lower 48 states — sooner rather than later.

"There continues to be a great deal of interest in her," said New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen, but "interest has a shelf life."

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  • by BBQ Lover Location: Greenville on Nov 7, 2008 at 11:05 PM
    Yep, can't stand Sarah Palin! I'm smarter than her! Even I knew Africa was a continent! Knew that since I was 10, and 44 now!
  • by LOL on Nov 7, 2008 at 08:38 PM
    I bet she can resurrect the GOP, she is about their SPEED OMG I am roflmao
  • by Walt Location: Jacksonville on Nov 7, 2008 at 08:26 PM
    Sure would be nice to have a President like Governor Palin that could actually give us back our money like she did in Alaska. Not like the Congress(Democrat) is going to do with money the treasury doesn't have. But she knows how to do that, she's not a lawyer.
  • by Devil Dog Location: New Bern on Nov 7, 2008 at 05:48 PM
    How about the classless and clueless comment OBAMA made today at his press conference. Told the media he spoke to all living presidents and had a seanz with Ronald Reagan. Now he had to call and apologize to Mrs Reagan. At least Palin has more class than that.
  • by Steve Location: Kinston on Nov 7, 2008 at 05:26 PM
    The simple fact is that the current republican party is no better than the the liberal establishment in representing the REAL Americans in this country. We of REAL America had to hold our collective noses to vote for the republicans offered to us. the fact that Mr. Obama will be my preident for at least the next 4 years makes it a necessity that I pray for him to lead America in a moral and ethical path. I will pray for his safety and well being for as long as he is in office. I will also speak up when I feel that he is wrong in his actions toward the citizens and their Constitution and laws(including moral ones). I pray for a change in America's financial and moral shrtcomings that We have faced for thelast 3 years. God Bless America.
  • by Palinsux Location: ENC on Nov 7, 2008 at 06:45 AM
    Clearly there is only one person to blame for McCain losing, and that is McCain. He made a bad choice in choosing an inept hockey mom with more issues than the entire cast of "Desperate Housewives" put together who just happens to be a staunch flag-waving, "support our troops" ultra neoconservative governor. McCain committed political suicide when he chose The Alaskan Airhead as his running mate. The only one who sems to be supporting Palin yet is her number one fan, Campbell Brown of CNN. Maybe Brown and the other CNN bimbo, Robin Meade, should go Alaska with Palin and stay there. The only thing right now that will give the GOP any chance of a shot in 2012 is to keep Palin and her dysfunctional family out of the lower 48 and off of any ticket outside of Alaska. Face reality, you Caribou Barbie fanatics. Her 15 minutes are over, thank God.
  • by Leslie Location: Pitt County on Nov 7, 2008 at 06:38 AM
    The GOP has some reorganizing and educating to do before 2012. Hopefully Ms. Palin will learn that Africa is a continent-not a country- before she runs for any other office.
  • by Devil Dog Location: New Bern on Nov 7, 2008 at 05:07 AM
    MCCAIN needs to step up, and identify those campaign insiders who trashed her after MCCAIN lost the election. Just remember HOOVER got 38% of the vote after his DEPRESSION debacle. MCCAIN was very lucky to get 46%. What we are witnessing today, started in 1964 with LBJ, and it all has been dumped on OBAMA to fix. EVERY federally funded program needs to be reworked/changed, let busineeses fail if they can't manage them correctly, no subsidies to corporations, and PUNISH those who have children and won't provide support. I am a CONSERVATIVE, but a pragmatic CONSERVATIVE and the Republicans need to usher out the old regime. The Democrats will have to do the same in the next 4 years. OBAMA should not bring back any people, who were with the CLINTON/BUSH administration,if wants change!
  • by NorCalvoter Location: obvious on Nov 6, 2008 at 07:01 PM
    Well, you can count on Liberals to be both glib and slanderous at the same time. But they deserve the win. The GOP blew it most recently with the bailout, and arguably with choosing Pallin (just not enough experience) but their biggest mistake over the last ten years has been turning their back on the growing amount of good Republicans who are tired of the conservative misnomer. We anxiously want to see GOP leaders truly embrace the need for conservation. This was the first time I was tempted to vote non Republican since Ross Perot. In the end, I just don't trust Obama. We need change, I would have rather seen Ron Paul or Alan Keyes in office than either of these two.
  • by Tanyah Location: Kinston on Nov 6, 2008 at 04:11 PM
    "You bet cha!"
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