Palin takes the easy way out

The White House campaign ruse ends. If only the myth would too

Topics: Sarah Palin, 2012 Elections,

Palin takes the easy way outSarah Palin (Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall)

There are, believe it or not, a few people who seem genuinely surprised by Sarah Palin’s announcement last night that she won’t run for president in 2012.

Reading through the comments section at the online hub for grass-roots Palin activity calls to mind the sorts of exchanges that presumably occurred between Harold Camping’s devotees and their skeptical friends and family members when May 21 came and went. “I can not believe she make all this hype ABOUT NOTHING!!!! She’s in it for the money and I got played!!!” one commenter wrote, while another declared: “Ok People! LISTEN UP!!!!!!!!!! I have been saying for months and months that Palin never even considered running for president.”

The latter take, of course is probably about right. Maybe in the immediate wake of the 2008 election, from which Palin emerged with a (slightly) net favorable score in national polls, she seriously entertained notions of a triumphant campaign for the top job in ’12. But from that point on, virtually everything she said and did turned swing voters against her and alienated her own party.

In the year 2010 alone, the number of Republican voters who said they’d be willing to support Palin for president dropped by 20 points; no other prospective candidate took a hit like that. And after last fall’s midterm elections, when several Palin-like candidates lost winnable races for the GOP, influential conservative voices began undermining her in public — and when Palin’s tone-deaf response to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting offered them a chance to do some real damage, they piled on. Today, her favorable rating with Republican voters stands at 44 percent, and with all voters it’s just 22 percent.



This is why it was so hard to take her periodic threats to wage a ’12 campaign seriously. Even Republicans who didn’t necessarily have anything against her seemed to realize that Palin had become electoral poison. And because she’d isolated herself from them, members of the conservative establishment weren’t there to vouch for her and prop her back up. Sure, there was always the theoretical possibility that she’d throw caution to the wind and run anyway, but even that was hard to envision, given how much she stood to lose from waging a futile campaign.

And that’s exactly the problem here. I wrote a while back that anyone sick of all the press attention Palin continued to receive should hope she decided to run. Why? Because if she put her name on the ballot and finished as an asterisk, it would prove once and for all that the empress had no clothes, and that there was no point in continuing to treat her as an unusually important and influential political leader. The example I had in mind was Gary Hart, who had been a political sensation in the mid-1980s, only to flame out in a sex scandal as the 1988 presidential campaign was beginning. When Hart decided to reenter that race at the last minute, polls initially found him running near the top of the field, but it was soft support and the Democratic establishment greeted him with hostility. His numbers withered and he finished with almost no support in Iowa and just 4 percent in New Hampshire. When it over, he vanished from the spotlight for years.

The point has been made that Palin enjoys a larger, more committed core of supporters than Hart ever had, and that’s probably true. But look at it this way: In the last poll released before her announcement, Palin was running at 10 percent in the GOP race, good for fourth place. That poll also found that 66 percent of Republicans said they didn’t want her to run, and that 49 percent said they like her less the more they learn about her — the biggest number of any GOP candidate. Add in the chilly reception the conservative establishment would have given her (not to mention all the damage she probably would have ended up inflicting on herself as a candidate) and 10 percent starts to feel like it would have been her peak. Here’s betting she would have ended up in single digits in the early contests — enough to sentence her to a Hart-like exile.

But by opting not to run, Palin can keep the illusion alive. Within minutes of issuing her written statement last night, she called in to Mark Levin’s radio show, telling the conservative host that concern for her family played a major role in her decision and vowing to take an active role in the 2012 election at the presidential, congressional and gubernatorial levels. Which, of course, means that instead of ending with her announcement, speculation about Palin will now simply evolve. Look for a parade of stories in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses about which candidate she might support. And look for Palin, just as she did with her White House charade, to milk the interest for all it’s worth, setting herself up as a would-be kingmaker (or queenmaker). Nor will the speculation stop when the primaries are over. Then there will be a new question: What role will she play at the convention — and can [nominee's name here] risk offending Palin’s army by snubbing her? And it will continue like this through the fall, when we’ll hear all about the potentially crucial role Palin could play in firing up the conservative base — or is the GOP nominee afraid that deploying her will alienate swing voters?

And really, that’s just the beginning. November 2012 will come and go, but she’ll still be around. As Ed Kilgore noted last night, she’s still only 47 years old — which means that there will be six more presidential elections after 2012 before she’s as old as John McCain was in 2008. If she’d decided to run now, Palin might have been out of our lives within a few months. Instead, she’ll be with us for years and years to come.

Steve Kornacki

Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>