Bad Idea Of the Week: Sarah Palin For RNC Chair

The latest bad idea from some conservative pundits ? Sarah Palin for Chair of the Republican National Committee.

In the wake of Michael Steele’s latest gaffe and the pressure that has mounted from some Republicans for his removal as RNC Chairman, some Republicans are putting forth the name of a possible replacement:

(CBS/ AP) Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is in trouble with many in his party after speaking out against the war in Afghanistan. Some are even calling for him to be removed.

And, reports CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante, there’s talk in GOP circles that Sarah Palin should replace him.

John McCain’s one-time running mate and former Alaska governor is, as Plante puts it, “the star of the Republican Party. She’s the top endorser, top fundraiser — and now could be the party’s top dog. Some members of the GOP base are calling for her” to take Steele’s place.

This talk seems to have started with a piece over at NRO by Kevin Williamson, who threw Palin’s hat into the ring:

Allow me to chime in with my usual observation on this subject: This is a job for Sarah Palin. Palin would be a much better RNC chairman than presidential candidate or freelance kingmaker. She’d raise tons of money and help recruit good candidates, i.e., she’d excel at doing the things Steele should have been doing instead of appointing himself Republican pundit-at-large.

A Chairman Palin would help set the right tone for the Republican party without having to get herself entangled in the minutiae of policy-development, which has not been her forte

Leaving aside the back-handed nature of that last statement —- Sarah Palin doesn’t know much about policy so let’s let her run the Republican Party ! —the problems with Williamson’s idea seem rather manifest.

For one thing, Sarah Palin is clearly the most polarizing Republican in American politics today. She has high positive ratings among Republicans, but her national favorable ratings are worse today than they were at the end of the 2008 Presidential campaign. Making her the public face of the GOP would alienate the very independents that the party needs to attract in 2010 and 2012 to be successful, and seems unlikely to engender much confidence among the big money donors that an RNC Chairman is generally tasked with cultivating for donations.

Moreover, as James Poulous points out, it’s quite clear that RNC Chair is not a position that Palin would be suited for:

The position of RNC Chair demands a disposition and an education that Sarah Palin does not possess and does not wish to learn. This is fine — few children will ever want to be Ken Mehlman when they grow up. There is a lot to hate about life as a party chair, and the job will go down in history as a gig that only the Macker could love. But the brute reality is clear: the next RNC Chair must perform, on command and on television, the full spectrum of on-message tricks, not just ringing platitudes but, turning on a dime, an encyclopedic host of policy details. The next RNC Chair must reek of competence the way Bill Clinton reeks of confidence.

Sarah Palin would be a much better party chair than Michael Steele, in the sense that a shot of tequila would be a better meal than a Chicken McNugget.

Moreover, if Palin wasn’t interested in being Governor of Alaska for her full time, one can hardly believe she’ll find the job of RNC Chairman all that interesting.

What the GOP needs in a chairman is the kind of party insider that is seen and not heard, and who knows how to raise money without alienating voters and, as Reid Wilson reports, that seems to be exactly what they’re looking for:

Despite a brief round of stories this weekend, ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is not a serious contender to chair the RNC. RNC members who control and influence big blocs of votes respect Palin, but they don’t believe she will be a player in the party’s future. Steele has made a few gaffes, but RNC members shudder to think of a Palin chairmanship.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    I bet the Democrats like the idea. She’d be an improvement on Steele in their books, and so much more visible!

  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    You seem to think her polarizing of the Republican party is a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s time to separate the Republicans from the RINO’s and she would be perfect in that role. But she doesn’t need to become the head of the RNC to do this, she is already more influentual than Steele or anyone else in the Republican party.

    For all those Democrats and others who think she is a light-weight when it comes to politics: go ahead, make our day!

  3. Patrick,

    If your goal is to turn the GOP into a permanent minority party then, by all means, make Sarah Palin your Chairman

  4. Highlander says:

    What is it about this very insignificant, non ivy league educated, WOMAN!

    That makes guys like Mataconis, pee down both legs of their pants everytime her name comes up?

  5. You have no idea what you’re talking about Highlander.

    I’d love to see women in politics, just not dis-engaged, anti-intellectual women like Palin who speak to the American people like they’re talking to a bunch of first graders and who don’t even know that they’re supposed hero — Ronald Reagan — went to college in Illinois and not California.

  6. john personna says:
  7. Wayne says:

    She would be much better at it than Steele. She would be able to recruit strong candidates and raise a great deal of money. Only problem is it would be best if she would greatly scale back on her speeches and take a back behind the screen approach in taking the position.

    Speaking engagements is one of her greatest strength. Beside what liberals like Doug say, she connects with people. She doesn’t talk down to them like most liberals including Obama does. She doesn’t have that” I went to Harvard. I am better than you attitude”.

    Palin haters rant on and solidify her support that much more.

  8. Beside what liberals like Doug say

    Just because I don’t worship at the Church of St. Sarah of Wasilla does not mean I’m a liberal, or that I voted for Obama.

    Try again.

  9. floyd says:

    You know what a sacrificial anode is?
    While the caustic media has a feeding frenzy, the GOP can conduct their campaigns,relatively free of pathetic hate speach . Sounds like a great idea.

    So, what’s wrong with speaking to all Americans at a level that barely stretches the comprehension of the average Democrat?
    What could possibly be more condescending than the constant talk from the Democrat Party claiming that all Americans are incompetent to run their own lives and must have big government to make every decision and provision. Even ” first graders” are more sophisticated than to buy that BS, heck the average “road grader” should know better.

  10. John425 says:

    SENATOR Palin would be a better fit. Serve one term and then run for President. Go Sarah!

  11. john personna says:

    Well, it’s a conundrum. If I wanted the GOP to be more moderate and productive (and win some elections), I’d think this less funny. On the other hand, if I just want them to tunnel into hard right isolation (and lose), I’d laugh and say “go for it.”

    Remember hard rightists, you may love this for all the wrong reasons.

  12. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***So, what’s wrong with speaking to all Americans at a level that barely stretches the comprehension of the average Democrat?***

    LOL… or us Tea partiers who dun learned everything we know about history from Dr. Beck.

    Big words hurt my brain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ***Just because I don’t worship at the Church of St. Sarah of Wasilla does not mean I’m a liberal, or that I voted for Obama.***

    na your a pragmatic thinker………..and that kind of crap got us were we are today….

    just saying….

  13. Wayne says:

    Well Doug with you statement like “make Sarah Palin your Chairman” you are not sounding like a Republican and you don’t sound like a conservative. Perhaps you are an independent or one who cares little about what a candidate stands for as long as they win and they have the right letter behind their name.

  14. rphillips says:

    Palin is getting some serious attention on her position on domestic oil extraction, especially her “Drill, baby, drill!” motto: This will definitely tarnish her reputation, that is if other events, debates haven’t already. Let’s be honest, her response to the oil spill was shortsighted – yes, most of us would agree that there needs to be more oil extraction, but the way Palin has framed this whole thing has been remarkably insulting to the residents of the Gulf coast. She is clearly one of the most polarizing figures in politics these days and I’m not sure if she would be the right fit to run our party.

  15. John P. (Tupelo) says:

    I’m constantly amazed at the level of arguing that goes on over every Palin post. Let her run for President, let her be the RNC chair, let her attempt anything of significance in the public sector.

    Currently Palin is a myth – like Bill Brasky – that works both ways. She’s an enigma because she doesn’t have a substantive track record to prove or disprove anything. Palin is the Matt Wieters of the political world. Apparently Wieters is the best .242 hitter that ever lived:

  16. An Interested Party says:

    “She doesn’t have that’ I went to Harvard. I am better than you attitude’.”

    No, of course she doesn’t…instead, she has that “I’m a REAL American and better than people who went to Harvard” attitude…snobbery comes in many forms…

  17. Well Doug with you statement like “make Sarah Palin your Chairman” you are not sounding like a Republican

    I didn’t say I was a Republican.

    To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me. And the divorce became final some time during the Bush years

  18. sam says:

    I think Caribou Barbie would make an excellent RNC honcette and an even neater presidential candidate.

  19. floyd says:

    And who do you think would make the perfect DNC chair and presidential candidate?… Klaus Barbie? [Old NP herself] [LOL]

  20. An Interested Party says:

    “And who do you think would make the perfect DNC chair and presidential candidate?… Klaus Barbie? [Old NP herself] [LOL]”

    I guess that could be funny, and perhaps even have some relevance, if Pelosi could somehow be connected to the Nazis…

  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug Mataconis says:
    Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 14:35

    “I didn’t say I was a Republican.”

    Doug your little debate with the faithful illustrates to perfection the GOP’s problem. You have a sizeable chunk of the Republican base that see’s no problem with electing a complete ditz as party chair, senator or president. The majority of the country wouldn’t trust her to walk the dog. And yet. It’s the same with these polls showing Obama in the mid to high forties and high Dem disapprovals that are causing whoop de whoops. The problem is they show Republican disapprovals as even higher. Personally I hope Republicans do choose her as a presidential candidate because it will put to rest once and for all just how loopy this whole idea is. She’ll make Alf Landon look good (you could paraphrase Dorothy Parker on Landon, if Palin makes more speech Obama would carry Canada). So I hope these guys get their wish, I really think it’s the only way to exorcize the demons. And think of all the fun we’d have reading Kristol’s eulogies to her insights and intelligence.

  22. Wayne says:

    How much credence should Republicans put into anti-Republicans advice on choosing their leaders? Very little if any. They usually have a different agenda.

    If someone wants to bash another Party or it members, fine but state what affiliation you hold. It shows how much credence to put in a person judgment. For example putting much credence in a big Lakers fan says on wither Kobe fouled or not is foolish.

    Palin is a threat to many powers outside of the party and some within. Those within that have issue with her would like to take her down a notch. Many of Hillary’s supporters didn’t like Obama until Obama won the primary. So a 41 approval rating is not that bad.

  23. Wayne says:

    Re “You have a sizeable chunk of the Republican base that see’s no problem with electing a complete ditz as party chair, senator or president’

    You mean the ones that voted for Obama or some of the other Democrats this last election?

  24. Wayne,

    If the GOP wants to win voters like myself back, they should be paying attention to the fact that many of the people popular inside the party, like Palin, are not very popular outside of it.

  25. steve says:

    Palin as RNC chair makes sense, though even better as a presidential candidate. It would settle a lot of arguments.


  26. An Interested Party says:

    “How much credence should Republicans put into anti-Republicans advice on choosing their leaders? Very little if any. They usually have a different agenda.”

    Ahh, but there’s the rub…I would bet that most people who are anti-Republican would very, very much like to see Palin as the GOP standard-bearer in 2012…that would guarantee the president’s reelection…

  27. wr says:

    Sarah Palin as RNC chair would run into exactly the same issues as Steele, because they have exactly the same priority. Everything they do is about promoting themselves. That’s why Palin quit her governancy — to promote herself as a speaker and “writer.” The RNC chair has to promote the party and the candidates, not her own agenda and definitely not use the position as a promotional platform from which to sell books.

  28. rphillips says:

    Hey, here’s a blog on those American Values Network ads that are running everywhere targeting Palin for her stance on domestic drilling and comparing her to Ahmadinejad, check it out:

  29. Brummagem Joe says:

    steve says:
    Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 18:00
    “It would settle a lot of arguments. ”

    Indeed it would and in my judgement its the only thing that would put to bed what I suspect is going to prove a long term schism in the GOP. Still in the humor dept, I think it was Barney Frank (sounds like him) who said Palin has the support of 70% of the Republican party and 100% of the Democratic party.