Would Running Spell the End of Palin?

If Palin runs and loses, is that the end of Palin?

Steve Kornacki argues at Salon that if Palin were to actually run, it would end Palin as we know her:

Because a presidential campaign would almost certainly end in defeat for Palin. And not just any kind of defeat — epic, humiliating defeat, the sort of disaster that might once and for all convince the political and media worlds that the empress has no clothes.

Part of me thinks this is correct, insofar as it has already been demonstrated (as I noted the other day) that one hold ideological views like Palin’s and still be able to answer basic questions from reporters (and hence, some of Palin’s cred/territory has been taken over by Bachmann and others).  Kornacki bases much of his argument on the fact that GOP elites have largely turned on Palin and that her negatives with anyone but conservative Republicans are at “a truly poisonous level.”

Part of me, however, thinks that a run (that I now think is pretty unlikely) could still help her with her fan base and help maintain her medium level politico-celebrity level well into the future (and hence, Palin would hardly go away).  Also:  since a lot of her shtick is based on being the victim of ye olde lamestream media, defeat has a certain cache.

On other words, I am not sure it is possible for Palin to alienate her core audience.  As such, I am not so sure that a failed run at the nomination would have that much effect on her.  Granted, as Kornacki argues, this might influence the way the non-Fox media covers here, but even then, I am not so sure.  It isn’t as if most Americans haven’t already rendered their collective judgement on this topic.

Ultimately I think that in this era of narrowcasting that Palin will likely remain a media star no matter what she does, as it actually doesn’t take a massive audience to do so.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Media, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Sarah Palin… The Britney Spears of politics.

  2. mattb says:


    As you mention, there’s little chance of Palin alienating her (rabid) base. It seems to me that the larger question is can she grow that base and/or maintain her current level of popularity (and via that her status as a political “person-of-interest”).

    My assumption up until recently is that she would run in the same way that Newt was running. Perhaps, as JayTea has put it, she’s trying to do her “own style” of running — ie never declaring and trying to keep everyone guessing.

    The problem with that approach is that you can only tease the media so much without delivering some additional sizzle.

    Ultimately, it seems difficult to imagine that she can maintain her status without “officially announcing.” And at this moment, with Bachmann and Perry both filling the “populist conservative maverick” position, its difficult to imagine Palin getting a lot of traffic.

    My prediction is that without some major announcement/stunt, she’s rapidly going down the Glenn Beck path — ie.burning fast then losing the spotlight, and spinning the loss as a “career opportunity.”

  3. If she loses to another Tea Party type it would hurt her, since all her fans would rally around the new big chief. What would help her is winning the nomination and losing to Obama, because then she can spend the next four years playing the martyr and claiming everytime anything bad happens that it would have been all lollipops and unicorns if only people had listened to her during the election.

    THAT’S why she’s waiting so long; she’ll only get into the Republican race if she’s assured of winning the nomination. She wants to be Barry Goldwater, not Tim Pawlenty.

  4. mike says:

    We can only hope.

  5. Jay Tea says:

    If something did, indeed, end Palin’s political career, then better put Doug on suicide watch. He’d have virtually nothing to write about.

    Heaven forfend he turn the same gimlet eye he uses to lambaste Republicans on to the Obama administration…

    On topic… how many times has she been pronounced dead politically now, anyway? I’ve lost count.


  6. ponce says:

    No, because her cult members will believe anything she tells them.

    1, Run
    2. Lose
    3. Accuse some group of conspiring against her

  7. Rick Almeida says:


    I agree with a lot of your points, but I wonder about the extent to which Gov. Palin’s supporters are or could also be Perry or Bachmann supporters; that is, I wonder about the proportion of Palin fans who would prioritize some sort of loyalty to herself personally as opposed to the ideas she espouses, many of which overlap w/ Perry and Bachmann.

  8. Fiona says:

    I think Palin will always have her base and a friendly home on Faux News, but I hope that if she ran and lost big the rest of the media would stop paying attention to her every little brain fart.

  9. James in LA says:

    She won’t run and risk her Anita Bryant role in American politics. Trouble is, like Anita, her audience shrinketh due to age, the bane of the would-be “tea party.” Old and angry does not build the kinds of coalitions needed to win in politics.

  10. PJ says:

    @Jay Tea:
    I doubt Doug would notice, he has shown himself very capable at writing other things like posts about how both sides do it.

    Now, if Palin disappears and he finally understands that both sides aren’t actually doing it, then there may be some concern.

    But just some.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Sarah Palin… The Britney Spears of politics.

    It is pretty telling that the above did not raise an eyebrow.