Sarah Palin stepped back into the spotlight on Saturday with a fiery, anti-establishment speech delivered in Madison, Wisconsin. With Donald Trump and Michelle Bachmann dominating much of the speculation about potential Republican presidential candidates over the last few weeks, Palin has been lying rather low. While the former governor of Alaska has yet to decide whether she’s going to run or not, her defiant speech this weekend suggests that she at least wants to keep her name in the discussion until she figures out whether to toss her hat in the ring.
Choosing the Dairy State to take shots at the administration and middle-of-the-road Republicans was a shrewd move. The drawn out battle between Governor Scott Walker and government unions over collective bargaining privileges has become a symbol of the kind of tough decisions that big, bloated government entities are being forced to face. Palin used the venue to criticize the compromise budget deal that Republicans and Democrats agreed to last week, chiding the GOP for agreeing to $38 billion in cuts rather than the $100 billion it promised.
“After some politics as usual and accounting gimmicks, we find out … it’s not even $38 billion dollars,” she said. “It’s less than $1 billion dollars in real cuts. That is not courage, that is capitulation. We didn’t elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. We didn’t elect you just to stand back and watch Obama redistribute those deck chairs.”
“We’re flat broke and he thinks these solar shingles and really fast trains will magically save us. So now he’s shouting ‘all aboard’ his bullet train to bankruptcy. Win the future? WTF is about right.”
Despite keeping a low profile lately, Palin tracked third among potential GOP candidates according to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. Mike Huckabee and Trump were most popular among the 350 Republicans polled, tallying nineteen per cent each. Palin followed as the choice of twelve per cent of respondents, with Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney close behind at eleven per cent apiece.
Trump, who promised to make a decision whether to run or not by June, has emerged as a potential force in the coming campaign. Whether that force would exert itself as a serious contender for the nomination or as a spoiler remains to be seen. His oft-expressed skepticism regarding President Obama’s birthplace resonates with a significant portion of Republicans, and “the Donald” is also emerging as a Tea Party favorite. A good deal of his support appears to have come at the expense of Romney, who has dropped in the polls as Trump has climbed. Trump has been working to undercut the former Massachusetts governor even more, describing Romney as “a small business guy” and declaring that he has a “much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.”
Conventional wisdom suggests that Trump won’t be able to turn his support among Tea Party activists and so-called ”birthers” into a nomination once the field begins to shake out. Only about thirty percent of Republicans identify themselves with either constituency (or both, as the circumstances may be). For that reason, Romney remains the favorite according to many observers, but allahpundit identifies the huge bit of baggage that Romney carries into any campaign: his sponsorship of government-funded health care in Massachusetts:
61% of primary voters say they would not be willing to vote for someone who supported a bill at the state level mandating that people have health insurance. In 5 of the 6 horse race questions we asked Romney still leads with those voters, suggesting that most Republicans who follow politics and the 2012 race only casually are not really aware of ‘Romneycare.’ It’s safe to say they’ll be well aware of it 9 months from now, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Romney can sustain his support once he’s been endlessly bashed over the head with it.
Thus, if neither Trump nor Romney are viable long-term candidates, then Palin could be in a strong position as the races develop, along with Huckabee and Gingrich. This weekend might be her opening shot in what is sure to be an interesting, entertaining and lengthy battle for the Republican presidential nomination.