Asked (Barbara) Walters: “If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?”
“I believe so,” (Sarah) Palin said
That’s the $24,000 question with Palin, isn’t it? If she were the nominee, could she beat Obama?
Honestly, it’s impossible to answer that question — not just in regard to Palin, but in regard to whoever the GOP nominee will be.
Many people seem to be assuming that Obama is doomed in 2012. That’s NOT a safe assumption by any means.
First off, Jimmy Carter and George Bush may have gone down after a single term each, but that’s more unusual than you might think. In fact, the last President to be elected, serve a full term, and then lose for reelection before those two was Herbert Hoover, who was defeated by FDR in 1932. In other words, knocking off a sitting President is no small matter.
Moreover, a lot of things can change in a two year period — and were he around, Ronald Reagan could tell you all about it. He beat Walter Mondale in a landslide back in 1984, but people tend to forget that in 1983, his approval rating had plunged all the way down to 35%. So, don’t assume that just because Obama’s down, he’s going to stay down. The economy could take off, he could have some surprising foreign policy success, he could move to the middle, the Republicans could blow it big time — there are a lot of ways that Obama could claw his way back up.
Of course, a lot depends on whom the Republicans nominate. Aside from Palin, the field doesn’t look particularly impressive at the moment, but most people would have said the same thing about the Democratic field in 1992, which ended up producing Bill Clinton.
So, let’s take a hard look at Palin: On the plus side, she’s very charismatic, likable, and generates a tremendous level of enthusiasm on the Right. This is no small matter because that raw excitement will translate into campaign contributions, volunteers, and people in the new media who are willing to go the mat for her. Someone like Palin who has an enormous, rabid fan base would make for a formidable foe.
On the other hand, Palin has some negatives, too. She has been the number one target of the Left since McCain chose her as his VP and the mainstream media’s incessant negative attacks on her and her family have damaged her reputation. Additionally, despite the fact that she has more relevant experience than Barack Obama had when he became President, polls show the American people are concerned about her ability to handle the job. This has translated into approval ratings that have at times appeared to be surprisingly low for someone who’s one of the most likable politicians in America. Although her numbers have been up and down, her recent approval numbers from the AP, 46% favorable vs. 49% unfavorable, are in the area she’d need to be in at this point to become President. Keep in mind that even though those numbers aren’t great, Palin has already spent two years surviving the sort of barrage the GOP nominee will be hit with once he or she gets the nod. In other words, the Democrats have thrown everything they have at Palin already, while people like Mitch Daniels and Tim Pawlenty haven’t really been scrutinized yet.
So, what does this all mean? It means that Palin isn’t Christine O’Donnell. There are no guarantees in politics, but for the moment, Palin certainly looks like a viable candidate who’s capable of beating Obama. Does that mean she’s the candidate that Republicans should choose? Not necessarily. After all, we don’t even know who’s running yet. But, if electability is a key consideration, at this early point, Palin looks to be just as electable as anyone else who may be tossing his hat in the ring on the Republican side.