Can Sarah Palin Win the 2012 Republican Nomination?


In July 2009 I published “Can Palin Win the 2012 GOP Nomination?” That was 18 months ago. It’s amazing how time flies, and with the New Year upon it might be time to rephrase the question: Will 2011 be the year of Sarah Palin?

That’s a pretty good bet, I’d say. For all intents and purposes, the race for the 2012 major party nominations begins today. Top-tier candidate announcements should be forthcoming shortly. Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination on January 20, 2007. Iowa will hold its presidential caucuses on January 16, 2012 (although the final shape of next year’s nomination calendar is still up in the air). By this point the buzz is not so much when candidates will formally announce, but how: Facebook or Twitter? YouTube is so four years ago.

Anyway, Nate Silver has an update to his previous analysis, “Sarah Palin’s Nomination Chances: A Reassessment” (via Memeorandum). Silver focuses on voter enthusiasm, the impact of the 2010 midterms, the competition in the GOP field (and the prospects that some top-tier candidates might wait until 2016), likely media cheerleading for Palin, her advantages as a woman, ideological purity of the GOP primary electorate, likely attempts by the GOP establishment to torpedo Palin’s campaign, the historical propensity for the out party to nominate ideological extremists, and Palin’s advantages with new media technologies.

My take is that Silver is a bit too infatuated with the role of new technology and blogs, etc., to determine Palin’s nomination chances. He spends little time on the factors that I focused on in June 2009. Perhaps most important is fundraising. So far Palin’s most formidable competition will likely come from Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Newt Gingrich is very likely to announce as well, although I doubt he’ll have a serious chance to win the nomination. There’s also buzz over Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the former who’s considered a powerful fundraiser but whose recent gaffe on Jim Crow segregation could hurt him with the establishment media. Others like Mike Pence, Mitchell Daniels, and John Bolton seem too far off the radar, although again fundraising may be a key indicator or competitiveness. According to an analysis out yesterday, “Romney has raised the most money at $7.4 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. Palin is second at $5.4 million and Pawlenty is third at $3.3 million. The others all raised less than $2 million.” But USA Today ran an analysis this week that suggests Barbour could be surprisingly competitive: “GOP fundraising avoids campaign limits through PACs ahead of 2012.”