There's a new Gallup poll out that ranks the current Republican leaders (i.e. possible presidential candidates) for 2012 via a survey of Republicans nationwide. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin tops all the others in name recognition and favorability rankings. In fact, 76 percent of Republicans surveyed have a favorable impression of Palin, putting her well ahead of other prospective candidates Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Bobby Jindal.
Gallup also polled these five possible candidates with the American public at large, and here, as you might expect, the results were considerably different. While 44 percent of all Americans surveyed have a favorable opinion of Palin, 47 percent have an unfavorable opinion, a much higher negative than the other four.
Palin is the candidate most identified with the Tea Party movement, and in my opinion, the candidate most likely to bring out those voters for the GOP. This is bad news for the others when primary season rolls around. Palin will have a core constituency and in contests where there are three or more candidates and only a plurality is necessary to win a state's delegates, this is a distinct advantage.
I'm trying to imagine a more divisive presidential campaign than one that would pit President Obama against Sarah Palin, but I can't. Personally, I think a Palin nomination would be a disaster for the GOP. Her negatives among the general population are too high and her verbal gaffes and propensity for shooting from the hip make her ascension to the presidency a long shot.
I shudder to think of what garbage would be dredged up in such a campaign. The birthers would re-emerge in force. GOP candidates nationwide would be pushed to the right in order to retain the Tea Party vote. It would be a blood-bath, but I think Obama would come out on top in that scenario. Palin would be this century's Barry Goldwater, a true believer who would bring out the true believers but would turn off the majority and cost the GOP down-ballot.
The real danger is that, despite the odds against it, if Palin becomes the nominee, she could actually become president. Once she's nominated, she'll have millions of dollars of corporate and PAC money behind her. The attack ads will reach new levels. If there is a hint of scandal (say Biden pulls a John Edwards) or a drastic economic downturn or a terrorist incident that can be exploited, we could be looking at Mama Grizzly as POTUS.
Thanks, John McCain. Nice legacy.