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Considering the Palin factor

Sarah Palin supports and endorses Nikki Haley, GOP candidate for governor of South Carolina.
Sarah Palin supports and endorses Nikki Haley, GOP candidate for governor of South Carolina.
Christian Science Monitor

This past Tuesday’s primary in preparation for November’s midterms gave us insights into the mood of the electorate. Some broad themes are developing: Incumbents are in a world of trouble and Sarah Palin has big league clout.

There are exceptions—for example John McCain in Arizona—but largely, current officeholders are on the skids simply because voters are ticked off and change is in the air. Evidently the hope and change promised by candidate Obama has withered on the vine of his presidency.

The Tea Party movement has tapped into this reality, recognizing the unrest and volatility at the grassroots level. Ordinary citizens are fed up with out of control spending by elitist politicians out of touch with bread and butter issues.

Sarah Palin wades into this electoral turbulence with all the tact and delicacy of a grizzly set loose in a slaughterhouse. She hones her standard red-meat stump speech stirring up the Republican faithful in a variety of selected campaigns across the country.

Love her or hate her, Palin is a force in the Republican Party that cannot be denied. Her weight was clearly seen in the Alaska Senate race between U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and challenger Joe Miller.

The little-known, 43-year-old Miller cast himself as a rugged individualist determined to put Alaska on a new course free of federal dollars. His thrust and rhetoric is rather ironic, and perhaps hypocritical, since over the years Alaska has benefited tremendously from pork-barrel spending.

Nevertheless, Miller campaigned and gained momentum promoting fiscal responsibility and government restraint. On the ABC/Washington Post Top Line program he credited Sarah Palin’s support for his coming out of nowhere to the brink of victory by saying, “It’s absolutely definite that her endorsement of this campaign has helped us. It’s certainly given us national recognition.”

Results of the Alaska Primary are not final, but Miller is holding a slim lead as the counting of absentee ballots continues, a process which could take several days. If Miller maintains his advantage and defeats Murkowski, it will be a stunning upset—it will also mean that for Tuesday’s endorsements, Sarah Palin will have gone five for five.

This election cycle is being dominated by the Palin factor. She has come alongside of forty-plus candidates, with overwhelmingly positive results. She’s got twenty wins and ten losses—twelve primaries still to come where she has a horse in the race.

What is it about Sarah Palin—what’s intriguing about the Palin factor?

To her detractors she’s an intellectual lightweight who’s a pretty face in nicely cut clothes. A one-trick pony with a simplistic message delivered with clichés and broad-brush swipes at complex issues.

The anti-Palin pundits are quick to say that her syntax can sometimes be tortured—she leans heavily on “also”, using the word as an adverb, adjective or conjunction, which is distracting and can be reminiscent of George W. Bush’s verbal teeter totter. Her opponents see her as the real-life caricature created by comedian Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live during the 2008 presidential campaign.

However, to her avid fan base, she is the second coming of the Gipper—she’s Ronald Reagan in drag. She’s the genuine article, shouldering the mantle of the frontier mindset determined to deregulate and diminish the reach of government. She echoes Reagan’s mantra effortlessly, delivering quips with the same natural flair of the 40th president.

The reality is likely somewhere in between the portrait painted by adversaries and the one projected by supporters—though it’s interesting that Palin is perpetually underestimated by the mainstream press along with a smattering of conservatives.

In this she reflects the life and times of the actor turned politician—Reagan was written off as a one-dimensional package with no attributes other than charisma that maximized the appeal of an outsider. History tells a different story.

Since Ronald Reagan stepped off center-stage, the Republican Party has desperately searched for someone, anyone to lead the charge into the fray of partisan politics—someone, anyone to put a smiley-face on conservatism.

The Palin factor may be a short-lived phenomenon that fizzles, but don’t bet the mortgage payment on it. Sarah Palin may actually be a Reagan Republican—an outsider with charisma, carrying a fundamental message: “Government isn’t the solution; government is the problem.”


  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    I think you're sadly delusional. I hope that you will accumulate some real live courage and force yourself to see the truth - The GOP hasn't finished wrecking this nation. They're going to do all manner of cruel, dark stuff to get this nation back in the horrible situation they want it in. Damn those who only care about their side winning. Shame on those who have turned the decision-making in our government into a party-based, religion tainted mess. Abe Lincoln would be VERY disappointed with the GOP. Yet another case in point - our public school system has let us down. If folks got educated right we wouldn't have so many ignorant haters.
    We worry about the religious crazies in other countries. We SHOULD be worried about all the twisted USA bible-thumpers who think they've got it right; they don't, but no one can wake them from their insane ideology. What a pity. ALL AMERICANS should be standing WITH our current President, not causing stupid, wasteful problems! Republicans and Tea Bag Party-ers - a bunch of selfish babies who have tantrums when they aren't limiting the freedom of others.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    "If folks got educated right we wouldn't have so many ignorant haters."

    Well, If folks got educated right, they wouldn't say "If folks got educated right".

  • Dorance Calhoun 4 years ago

    No anonymity here. Good assessment, Ken -- and well written. I don't know if I could vote for her for president, and frankly I sort of hope she doesn't throw herself into the nomination meat grinder. But she definitely is and will be a factor.

  • Ken R. Abell 4 years ago

    To Anonymous - Anyone who spews viewpoints without having the courage of their convictions to attach their name to their opinions are spineless, gutless wonders.

    Do have a nice day. And see about getting spinal implants.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    BIOYAS, Kenny boy.

    why should anyone ID themselves to Republi-puke attack dogs?

  • Roger L. 4 years ago


    I see you attracted the normal spineless and personal-attack left-wing vitreol from someone who has nothing but a blind socialist agenda and who believes everyone should follow his
    "most esteemed and all-knowing leader." Your editorial was well written, well researched, balanced, and accurate. Sarah is a big factor in these primary elections and could be a significant factor in the November election as well. She has not won every battle, but she does represent a significant and growing number of people who are deeply and rightly concerned about a constitutional-based government and the growth of federal power to the detriment of local and state governments.

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