Sarah Palin And The Republican Divide

Sarah Palin is at the center of a divide within the GOP that could become larger even as the GOP comes closer to regaining control of Congress.

Jonathan Martin takes note of yesterday’s appearance by Sarah Palin in Anaheim as further evidence of a growing, if unacknowledged, divide in the Republican Party:

[W]hile the enthusiasm in the room illustrated the momentum Republicans are enjoying heading into November, the event also offered a vivid reminder of the fissures within the GOP that could imperil its chances for taking back the White House in 2012.

First, there is the obvious: Palin, the biggest grass-roots draw in the party, is seen as kryptonite for many general election candidates. Both Fiorina and Whitman cited scheduling conflicts, but of course they would have come to an event filled with TV cameras if they thought there was any political upside. Most striking, Fiorina was just an hour down Interstate 5 earlier in the day with John McCain — yet neither showed here. Palin has many followers here in conservative Orange County, but for the two candidates in an overwhelmingly Democratic state the imperative is now to find voters in the center of the electorate — something the Alaskan has little capacity to help with.

There were signs, sticker and literature for many local candidates but little for either of the two statewide hopefuls.

But the no-shows were only symptoms of a more fundamental problem the GOP must reckon with after this election.

Here, in a Marriott ballroom adjacent to Disneyland, was the tea party wing of the party as represented by Palin and her comrade in conservative mischief-making, Andrew Breitbart. Steele, shunned by establishment Republicans, has hitched himself to the new right movement, as well.

This is now where the center of gravity is in the GOP on both policy and politics. Conservative activists, radicalized by the Democratic leadership in Washington and egged on by Fox News and talk radio, are in a confrontational mood and attribute their difficulties in the past two election cycles only to being insufficiently true to small-government principles.

Yet there remains a powerful element within the party that is helping to fund and oversee many of this year’s elections that, while appreciative of the manpower offered by tea partiers, is wary of what some of their more flamboyant leaders and purist ideas mean for efforts to appeal to swing voters.

While this is unlikely to hurt the GOP in November except in exceptional cases like Delaware and Nevada where weak and gaffe-prone candidates remain in danger of losing seats that the GOP could have, with less extreme candidates, eked out a victory, that isn’t necessarily the case for the future. Should the GOP regain power, there is going to be obvious conflict between the incoming freshman Congressman and Senators, many of whom will be in some sense indebted to the Tea Party movement, and the GOP Leadership, whose primary objective will be to govern and to set up the electoral board for the Presidential Election in 2012. Whether it’s immigration, or the budget, or a wide range of issues, it’s easy to see how conflicts would develop between the leadership and the 2010 freshman class.

And then, there’s Sarah:

Palin has been citing the 40th president and conservative icon more frequently of late, including at a private speech earlier this month in Florida in which she pointedly reminded a group of prominent Republicans that naysayers said that Reagan wasn’t electable.

Yet should she pursue a presidential bid, Palin faces a rehabilitative project that will be more difficult than anything Reagan had to do. Consider 1978, the midterm election cycle between his two presidential runs. He was welcomed on the campaign trail and not just for movement conservatives. Reagan, for example, stumped for party moderates such as Illinois Sen. Charles Percy that year.

As Saturday demonstrated, that plainly isn’t the case for Palin.

(…)

Palin will be in Orange County, Fla., next week for a similar fundraiser and rally.

But if she has any events planned for candidates, they’ve not yet been announced — illustrating her limited appeal among general election voters. She’s done nothing in the 2010 cycle to demonstrate an ability or desire to appeal to anyone beyond those who are already fervently devoted to her.

This has been part of Palin’s playbook all along, of course, but it creates the potential of creating a serious divide in the GOP if Palin does indeed run for President. While she has a vocal cadre of supporters, she also has incredibly high unfavorable ratings, and even many Republicans aren’t thrilled with the idea of her being their nominee in 2012. Based on the way the Delaware Senate Primary worked itself out, one can easily see Palin and her supporters taking up the claim that those who oppose her are “RINOs,” or that they’re opposing her simply because she’s a woman. It’s a bogus charge, but it proved to be a fairly effective weapon for O’Donnell supporters to shut down dissenting voices who were pointing out, correctly, that she had no realistic chance of winning or that her past was questionable at best. Expect the same kind of attacks from Palin supporters against Republicans who dare to oppose a Palin Presidential run in 2012.

It will be chaos, and it will likely lead to President Obama’s re-election in 2012.

FILED UNDER: Politicians, Sarah Palin, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Yeah Doug that’s right. There’s a schism a mile wide in the GOP. And what happens if all those huge gains you so confidently expect don’t happen?

  2. Joe

    I haven’t predicted “huge” gains. Actually, I haven’t made any predictions about the elections at all yet

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I haven’t predicted “huge” gains. Actually, I haven’t made any predictions about the elections at all yet”

    I thought it was implicit in much of your comment above and Republicans are continually boasting about taking back house and senate. To me the house scenario looks possible on a low poll but not the senate. A lot of these polls btw predicting huge Republican advances are predicated on fairly low turnouts. Gallup is 40% I think. So suppose that happens and they get the house back but not the senate. There then follows 2 years of antics, attempted impeachments etc and then in 2012 a presidential election turnout moves back to around 60% what happens? Particulary if the Republicans field a weak candidate? If Republicans don’t make those huge gains in three weeks there will be some very unhappy campers around believe me.

  4. superdestroyer says:

    Palin has gained influence and power because of the total failure in leadership, governance, and public relations that have been the standard performance of the establishment Republicans.

    Until the establishment Republicans learn how to actually discuss policy, governance,and the future, the tea party types will retain influence. If the establishment Republicans refuse to discuss governance and policy, they are worthless.

  5. Davebo says:

    “Until the establishment Republicans learn how to actually discuss policy, governance,and the future, the tea party types will retain influence. ”

    Yes, because tea party types are so capable of discussing policy, governance and the future.

    I like you better when you just blamed brown folks SuperD.

  6. anjin-san says:

    > If the establishment Republicans refuse to discuss governance and policy, they are worthless.

    It was not all that long ago that we had good governance in DC with a pragmatic Democratic President and a reform minded GOP Congress. I was pretty happy with that setup.

    Then Newt put party dogma above rational thought and tried to remove Clinton from office. We have had nothing but acrimony since. Thanks Newt!

    I see no evidence that the tea party folks embrace rational thought over dogma. Rather the reverse. Beware of a cure that is worse than the disease.

  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    ‘Then Newt put party dogma above rational thought and tried to remove Clinton from office. We have had nothing but acrimony since. Thanks Newt!”

    Gingrich was the tipping point. It’s when I first started asking what is going on here?

  8. superdestroyer says:

    Davebo,

    If no Republican is going to discuss policy or governance, then the people who a conservative government are going to pay attention to those who appear closer to believing in conservative government.

    When the Establishment Republicans ran up a $5.5 trillion dollar budget, expanded the government, and failed to administer the government, they lost credibility with the party base. Now why should that base given the same establishment Republicans any attention when the Establishment Republicans refuse to either discuss conservative principles or discuss actual policy?

  9. PD Shaw says:

    She is not running for President. Doug undersells one of his links. She is viewed favorably among Republicans, but most don’t think she is qualified to be President and would not vote for her. She is closer to Rush Limbaugh than a politician, and quitting the governorship reinforced that she is a conservative personality figure. The moment she announces for Presidency, her world would tip very awkwardly in a hostile direction. The moment before, all of the Republicans will be avoiding offending her for fear of offending her fans.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    PD Shaw says:
    Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 18:19

    I thought she had a 70% approval rating among Republicans?

    “The moment before, all of the Republicans will be avoiding offending her for fear of offending her fans.”

    So she’s the kingmaker?

  11. An Interested Party says:

    Conservatives can only hope she doesn’t run for president…by the way, what proof is out there that she won’t? She certainly seems to have the ego, the support among the grassroots, and the ability to raise gobs of cash, so why won’t she run? If she does, she doesn’t even need to win the nomination to damage the eventual GOP nominee…some conservatives like to toss out the foolish and untrue meme that liberals and Democrats are somehow “scared” of her…on the contrary, they are praying (yes, even the atheists!) that she runs, as that will all but guarantee a second term for the president…

  12. kth says:

    Sarah Palin has probably a 5% chance of becoming President of the United States. If there is blood in the water (specifically Obama’s) in late 2011, Republicans will hold their noses and vote for the guy with the best shot to win, specifically Willard “Mitt” Romney. If, however, Obama looks hard to beat, Republicans may opt for the less-electable Palin in a more or less symbolic affirmation of their principles. Palin’s chances of prevailing in the primary are almost exactly the inverse of the Republican’s chances of winning the general.

    The perfect storm is if Obama looks strong at the beginning of 2012, and the Republicans pick Palin, but the wheels fall off for Obama between (say) Super Tuesday (when Palin might have sewn it up) and Election Day.

  13. willegge says:

    If it was not for Palin and the tea party the GOP would not be in the place of gaining anything this November. They failed that is why Republican Party is almost as low as the Dems national opinion polls. Palin is not the problem she is the answer.

  14. ponce says:

    “Republicans will hold their noses and vote for the guy with the best shot to win..”

    Would those be the same Republicans who nominated an unelectable wacko like Christine O’Donnell?

  15. Trumwill says:

    It was not all that long ago that we had good governance in DC with a pragmatic Democratic President and a reform minded GOP Congress.

    This would be the period where the government shut down due to partisan battles? Gingrich did not exactly have the perception of being a good-faith player at the time.

    But maybe that’s what we need this time around. A complete breakdown to remind everyone that you can only take partisan demonization so far before solutions start becoming necessary.