The Campaign Spot

Wondering What Sarah Palin’s Future Holds…

A few readers have asked whether I think Sarah Palin will run for the Senate in the future. I think that would be a mistake, for several reasons, not the least of which is that, if successful, the decision would take an unique and popular outside-the-beltway executive and put her inside the Beltway as one of 100 legislators voting on every bill that comes down the pike.

For now, I hope Sarah Palin gets to take a vacation and spend some much-deserved time with that beautiful family. Her experience these past four months must have been simultaneously exhilarating, supremely frustrating, and thoroughly exhausting.

I hope Palin runs for a second term as governor and is reelected. This seems like a likely scenario.

Beyond that, her future is a blank slate. If she decided, after this rollercoaster experience, that she was no longer all that interested in national office, I could not blame her. But I suspect that she realizes the strengths she has and the opportunities that will await her.

The Republican base loves Sarah Palin. Many Democrats instantly loathed her, at least partially because they sensed an almost unparalleled threat; a few couldn’t help but like her even if they disagreed with her. Independents concluded she wasn’t ready — not that she wasn’t likeable, and not that she wasn’t an impressive person, but that she wasn’t ready. This flaw can be overcome with time and useful experience.

If Palin wants a future in national office, I hope she takes some time to deeply contemplate where she wants to take the country. I suspect she’ll write a book about her experience on the campaign trail; I hope she writes a separate one, when she’s ready, about her vision for the country.

She indeed could be the next Reagan; the challenge this time was that she was running as the Ronald Reagan of about 1969, after about two years as governor. It’s easy to forget how much time Reagan spent touring and speaking at General Electric plants, a thousand radio addresses, newspaper columns, etc. He familiarized himself with every major economic, social, and foreign policy topic under the sun, and figured out what he wanted American policy to do and how it should go about doing it. Very, very few political figures think through these key questions so thoroughly. A lot of the Palin criticism was unfair, but the Peggy Noonans of the world have something of a point when they say she has as-yet incomplete political philosophy. Until the end of August, Sarah Palin didn’t really need one; her natural instincts were sufficient to successfully navigate the treacherous world of Alaskan politics.

And there is really no deadline for her interest in national office.  Palin is a strikingly young 44 years old. If she runs at Hillary’s age, she will be running in 2024. You’re going to hear a lot of buzz about her as a 2012 candidate, but I don’t think that she needs to run in four years. (For now, life will keep her busy – she has an infant to take care of, a son in Iraq, a grandchild on the way and a day job.) I don’t think that love from the Republican base is going to dissipate in four years. She stepped up to the plate and hit the ball as far as she could this time around, and for about two weeks, she helped achieve the near-impossible: putting McCain ahead in a Democratic year.

Every once in a while I think about working on a political campaign, and almost always conclude that I like what I do on the outside too much to ever want to accept the inherent limits of working on the inside. But after the joy of offering a line that ended up in her convention speech, Governor, I’ll make clear the exception. I’ll answer that call anytime.

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