It’s rare that progressives and Tea Partyers agree on anything, but the news that Sarah Palin is “considering” running against Alaska Sen. Mark Begich in 2014 has all of us reciting the same prayer: Oh dear God please make this happen!
“I’ve considered it because people have requested me considering it,” she told Fox’s Sean Hannity Tuesday. “But I’m still waiting to see what the lineup will be and hoping that … there will be some new blood, new energy, not just kind of picking from the same old politicians in the state.”
The last time Palin found new blood in Alaska, you’ll recall, she backed the disastrous far-right Tea Party upstart Joe Miller against incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010, and Miller won the primary – only to lose the general after Murkowski ran a historic write-in campaign, and Miller ran a historically bad one.
A poll commissioned by the Tea Party Leadership Fund, which is hoping for a Palin run, found she is essentially tied atop the GOP primary field with the current front-runner, Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, edging him narrowly 32-30, with 24 percent for Miller, who’s running again. Miller loses to Treadwell overwhelmingly in a head to head matchup.
However, Begich would seem to have less to fear from a Palin run. In February Public Policy Polling found that the Democratic incumbent has a healthy lead over Palin in a hypothetical matchup, 54 to 38 percent; he’s only leading Treadwell by 8 percent. Still, Palin, clearly the weaker candidate, enjoys entertaining the notion that she’ll challenge Treadwell.
Palin remains a national Tea Party darling, but she is damaged goods in her home state. When John McCain tapped her as his running mate in 2008, she had an 80 percent approval rating in Alaska; by early 2013 it was down to 34 percent. “I have a sense that today she would have a very hard time getting elected here,” Margaret Stock, a University of Alaska Anchorage political science professor, told the New York Times last year.
Mainstream Republicans, understandably, don’t seem to take the notion of a Palin run all that seriously. After all, she hinted at a 2012 presidential run well into 2011, though it became increasingly clear she was enjoying making the big money speaking, which her potential candidacy enabled. Republican strategist Brian Walsh tweeted: “Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it. She does a good job keeping her name out there on one thing or another though.”
Still, even though Palin’s a weaker candidate against Begich than Treadwell is, that kind of calculation hasn’t stopped her before. In 2010, she endorsed the little-known Miller and he won the primary, only to implode after his campaign security guards handcuffed and detained a reporter at a public event, while Miller himself let loose on unpopular issues like privatizing Social Security and Medicare, abolishing Medicaid and the Department of Education, and opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest (which, come to think of it, is now part of the GOP mainstream). Besides, if a Palin run forced Miller out of the race, or marginalized him enough to let her pick up his support, she could conceivably beat Treadwell – their combined support is 58 percent to his 30 percent.
So if Palin sees any upside for herself in running against Treadwell, I’m sure she’ll do it. She’s happy to hurt the GOP; she’s already declared that she’s willing to leave the Republican Party, and maybe start a “Freedom Party,” and she reiterated that to Hannity:
It’s certainly not my first choice. The Republican Party is the Party of Lincoln and Reagan, and the planks in the platform are right for this country. I stand strong on those planks. I just wish that more of our leadership, the movers and shakers within the Party, would stand strong on those planks with the rest of us…It tempts one to believe that if they in the Party abandon us, we have no other choice.
On the other hand, running and losing, whether to Treadwell or Begich, would hurt the Palin brand, and it’s hard to imagine that Gov. Half Term would have the discipline for a Senate run. She clearly prefers taking potshots at President Obama from the perch of her Facebook page, or facing adoring crowds at the NRA and CPAC, or worshipful interviews by her Fox friends, to the give and take of political debate.
When Hannity pressed her about what might make her run, Palin replied:
Well, I think any American with a heart for service has to always have in the back of their mind that they would do anything, everything that they could, to help the cause, even if perhaps if it’s something that doesn’t look necessarily appealing or necessarily fitting in with a conventional plan. … I would do whatever I could to help, and if that was part of that help, then it would have to be considered.
What a selfless public servant. Run Sarah run!