Sarah Palin, Mrs. Independent?

by Daniel Foster

Rich, I agree that Palin’s path to the presidency via the Republican primary looks increasingly untenable, especially in light of polls like this. But what if winning a Republican primary battle is not what Palin has in mind?

I was struck during Sarah Palin’s road trip by her use of one word: independent. The two most memorable examples (though I believe there are more):

Palin with Trump:

Palin reciprocated Trump’s enthusiasm. Asked how she felt about a Palin/Trump ticket, Palin gushed, “That sounds exciting. Sounds unconventional.”

She also praised Trump’s attitude. “I love his independence,” Palin said. “I love anybody who is not run by a political machine and will say what they want to say and will put their good experience to use in the name of service to this country.”

Palin on Romneycare:

“Even on a state level and even a local level, mandates coming from a governing body, it’s tough for a lot of us independent Americans to accept, because we have great faith in the private sectors and our own families … and our own businessmen and women making decisions for ourselves. Not any level of government telling us what to do,” Palin said.

So here’s a bit of bald speculation for a Thursday afternoon: Could Sarah Palin be firing up for an independent run at the presidency? I have no idea, of course, but it would make a certain amount of sense. She’s never had the inclination to play nice with the Republican party (she hasn’t, for instance, coordinated her bus tour stops with local Republicans), and who needs the hassle of a grueling Republican primary when you’ve already got a national fund-raising base and the best name recognition in the field? She could skip all those messy debates and hold onto her gig (and platform) at Fox News longer than she otherwise could have. She could avoid becoming the target of half-a-dozen GOP campaigns’ attacks, and she could hold her SarahPAC warchest in reserve for the general, at which point whoever snags the Republican nomination will have been depleted and need to play catchup. And with outside group spending eclipsing the RNC in 2010, she could compete for a huge share of the right-of-center PAC pie.

Hitherto my thinking has been that Palin wouldn’t run at all. She knows that barring a miracle she can’t win a general election against Obama* and I never thought she had it out bad enough for the Republican establishment to be willing to deliver President Obama a second term. But maybe she sees an independent run differently. (For the record, I do too. I think it changes the question from ‘Will Obama win?’ to ‘Will Obama win by double-digits?’)

* I’m sorry folks, but this is true. Palin’s favorable/unfavorable split has been moving in the wrong direction since 2008 and stood at 28/60 in a recent Bloomberg poll. So even if we give her all 3.1 percent of the poll’s margin of error and she picked up every one of the twelve percent of respondents who said they were “not sure” about her, she’d top out 43.1 percent favorable. John McCain — with Palin on the ticket — got 45.66 percent of the popular vote in 2008 and got crushed in the electoral college. Even though turnout may not break records as it did in 2008, even though unemployment will probably be above eight percent, even though Hope and Change won’t have the same ring to it, and even with every benefit of the doubt, Palin would have to change millions of Americans’ minds about her to have a shot.

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