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Friday, January 21, 2011

If "She Can't Win," Then Neither Can We

I have been addressing in some detail the assertion that Sarah Palin should not be seriously considered by Republican voters because Palin cannot win a general election, so I will not repeat myself. 

Admittedly, I have been somewhat narrow in my focus, driven by circumstances that the "can't win" meme is being used currently against Palin almost exclusively.   (Obamacrats — “She can’t win”, describes how the "can't win" strategy works.)

The issue is not Sarah Palin.

The issue is whether we will demoralize voters who would work hard to elect a Republican -- even a Republican not quite to their liking -- in the general election provided the primary process were viewed as fair and open.

We saw in the 2010 elections that Tea Party supporters are among the most loyal.  Where Tea Party candidates lost primaries, Tea Party supporters rallied around the winner, or at least did not actively seek to undermine the winners.  By contrast, the moment establishment candidates lost, there were active attempts in some races by establishment Republicans (and unfortunately, some of the conservative blogosphere) to undermine the candidates.

There is no better way to demoralize a key segment of the Republican Party, and damage our chances in November 2012, than to announce a year before the primaries even begin that Palin should not even enter the primary fray or should not be seriously considered because she cannot win a general election.

We do not need the Republican equivalents of 2008 Democratic PUMAs, people so embittered by the perceived unfairness of the primary process that they stayed home or switched sides in November.  And that will be the result of attempts to shut Palin out of the process through the "can't win" strategy. 

The same holds true for other potential Republican candidates -- let them all enter the primaries and let them all be seriously considered regardless of what polling tells us now is the likelihood of success. 

Let's have a process focused on issues, and yes, as part of the process electability inevitably is going to be one of the issues.  But let's not undermine ourselves by telling Sarah Palin, or Tim Pawlenty, or Mitch Daniels, or Mitt Romney or anyone else that they are wasting our time by running because they cannot win a general election. 

And let's not insult their supporters with the same message.  Remember, after the primaries the Lombardi Rule will take effect, and we are going to have to unite to defeat the billion-dollar candidate.

If "she can't win" is the means by which one of the candidates wins the Republican nomination, then we can't win either.

Related Posts:
Washington Post Now Not Even Trying To Hide Its Hatred Of Sarah Palin
It Sounds So Much Better Read Out Loud

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  1. By far the most vile are the right-wing naysayers, who are loathe to give up an iota of power to a self-made woman like Sarah Palin. I expect it from the Left, but not from our side.

  2. Which brings in the C. Gaylard Parkinson rule:"Thou shall not speak ill of another republican". Reagan adopted it,and it seemed to work well.

  3. I like Sarah Palin just fine. She shows a holly stake in the noonday sun to the progressive vampires. I will resume contributing to the GOP when the GOP adopts her clear respect for the sanctity of life.

    That was free of nuance, equivocation, shading, waffling, artifice, rhetorical pioneering.

    Thanks, Professor.

  4. I hope your wise words will not be swallowed in the vast echo chamber of Republican politicos' hubris.

    No need to name names, but there are some who the leftists love to put on the MSM to make these defeatist comments. Don't they see that they are just useful idiots to the leftists?

    You are, of course, 100% correct. (BTW - just how much of that $1 billion is going to come from the left-over $timulus/$lush fund, I wonder?)

  5. I don't think anyone should be saying who should or should not throw their hat into the ring for the primary. If a candidate is truly weak, it will become apparent in that process. I have my opinion on Palin and the likelihood to win a general election, but if she is the nominee I will support her. I am certainly won't be voting for Obama. And make no mistake, staying home is voting for Obama.

    But, the other side of the coin is that we will have a bit of the PUMA thing going on once the candidate is chosen if Palin runs. There are those who won't vote for anyone but her and others that won't vote for her. Lets all hope that doesn't throw the election back to Obama.

  6. It now appears that the "other" side has adopted a brand new strategy, to wit, refusing to talk about her!


    Dana Milbank of the WaPo has taken the first specific step by publicly pledging (ht GatewayPundit, here) not to talk about Sarah Palin for one full month, beginning on February 1, 2011, and asking others to join him in taking the pledge. That would be a "not so implicit" admission that Milbank recognizes that others in the media have the same problem, no?

    He begins thusly:

    Though it is embarrassing to admit this in public, I can no longer hide the truth. I have a Sarah Palin problem.

    I have written about her in 42 columns since Sen. John McCain picked her as his presidential running mate in 2008. I've mentioned her in dozens more blog posts, Web chats, and TV and radio appearances. I feel powerless to control my obsession, even though it cheapens and demeans me.

    But today is the first day of the rest of my life. And so, I hereby pledge that, beginning on Feb 1, 2011, I will not mention Sarah Palin - in print, online or on television - for one month.
    . . . .

    Frankly, I'm a wee bit puzzled about the precise reasoning behind the delay . . . you know, like . . .

    "I swear I'm going to stop drinking for a month -- beginning in exactly 10 days!"

    But there you have it. As Jim Hoft put it:

    "They’ve totally lost it."

  7. I've said it before.... we need to have closed primaries. I don't want a long time Democrat or an Independent to come in at the last minute to vote and possibly decide who the Republican candidate is. It's even more important in 2012, since Obama will probably be running unopposed.


  8. As for me, I've got a Tea Party meeting on Monday. We will discuss the outcome of a meeting over the weekend in which about 50 independent Tea Party group leaders meet to agree on a strategy to defeat Senator Richard Lugar of IN.

    I'm not about to let anyone demoralize me. =]

  9. "Where Tea Party candidates lost primaries, Tea Party supporters rallied around the winner, or at least did not actively seek to undermine the winners. By contrast, the moment establishment candidates lost, there were active attempts in some races by establishment Republicans (and unfortunately, some of the conservative blogosphere) to undermine the candidates."

    That's a crucial point. It needs to be emphasized repeatedly.

  10. Professor, I could not concur more strongly with your point than I do. May it carry the day!

  11. The Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers changed on 7/3/09 -- the fact that the Left would go after Governor Palin post-election shows the Left cares nothing for civility, or mercy.

    Daleks have better class then our "Intellectuals" within the Beltway GOP (David Frum, we're talking to you), we who fight door to door, campaign to campaign have never forgotton Reagan's 11th Commandment, but the Belway GOP did.

    If Palin wins, it would be a sign that in American politics:

    1) There are second acts;

    2) The Ivy Degree will not limit how high you can go.

    This post says it best:


    (TY Prof. Jacbson)

  12. Sorry professor, I agree with everything you've been writing about this subject but you are wasting your breath. The establishment GOP will no more open up the nomination process than the Democrats will stop their calumny against Republicans and conservatives.

    It is important for us Tea Partiers to prevent the rerunning the 2008 RINO stampede and here is why. Let's consider Giuliani for this time. Is he a stalking horse?


    From the RINO stalking horse's very mouth:

    Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he is “more likely” to run for president in 2012 if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin makes a bid, according to snippets from an interview to air on CNN Monday night released on Twitter.

    THAT is a stalking horse. Giuliani plans to reprise his 2008 role of blocking for the establishment's anointed Assistant Democrat nominee. In a weak field of RINO candidates all very unpopular with the Tea Party, Giuliani and others will take turns taking pot shots at Palin while the anointed one stays above the fray. The assumption is that anyone they nominate will beat Obama and that once again, conservatives will hold their noses to vote for the "lesser of two evils".

    If they insist on another stampede of RINO stalking horses, let's flood the field with conservative stalking horses too. This would force the stalking horses to defend themselve and get so tangled up that they won't be able to attack Palin. Stalking horses taking out stalking horses.

    Palin can handle the rest. She can beat any of RINO the establishment chooses to anoint.

    Romney has already said that he will not seek the support of the Tea Party. Pawlenty keeps damning Palin with faint praise. Gingrich keeps offering up "friendly advice" for Sarah to "slow down" and "tone it down". Huckabee also misses no opportunity to criticize Sarah. This is not going to stop so we might as well deal with it.

  13. I am already seeing many TEA Partiers begin talk of a third party. This idea will put Conservatives in thee wilderness for the rest of my life. Splitting Conservatives and center-rights is a horrible idea that we must avoid at all costs. We made great inroads in taking over the GOP in November and must continue that march over the next two years until we own it.

  14. If The Alaskan Goddess were to announce on the day of the President's State of the Union address that she will be running for president, I wonder which story would be the front-page headline in more newspapers the following morning.

    Come to think of it, even if Sarah announced that she will *not* be running for president, that would probably make headlines in a lot of newspapers as well.

    Either way, WaPo's Dana Milbank would be weeping and wailing, gnashing his teeth, rending his garments, etc over his decision to have a self-imposed hiatus on all things Palin.

  15. I'm in 100% agreement with this.

  16. Deekaman: Not only did we not "take over" the GOP in November, we failed to win a single leadership position. And the new RNC Chairman is the idiot assistant of his predecessor. Your statement makes no sense.

    Let's not forget that Lincoln led one-third of the Whigs into a wilderness called the Republican Party where they were never heard from again. I'm hoping Palin or DeMint or some other Tea Party Republican decides to lead one-third of the Republicans into the same wilderness.

    I'm voting 3rd party by default unless the GOP gives me good reason not to. I see no one in that RINO stampede that fits the bill. And Donald Trump may very well be available and unlike Ross Perot, he WANTS to win and could

  17. The problem with your suggestion is that there is no other real stick to beat Sarah Palin with. Unelectable. That's it.

    Not what they used against Reagan--too conservative. Not poor administrative record or leaving her state in tatters. Not backing politically unpopular policies (not even one as hard as they tried on death panels). Not inability to connect to the voters. Not corruption. Not the "little woman" needs to take care of her family. Not even, though they've tried, weird religion.

    If you take this away, you take away everything they have--especially since Palin continues to have one of the highest, if not the highest, favorable rating among Republicans. (73% favorable compared to only 22% unfavorable)

  18. I believe she can win; I just don't believe she should. She may make a fine president and pick a Cabinet and advisors filled with fine men and women; but it's the person in the Oval Office who makes the final decisions, and "fine" doesn't cut it there. That's why I'll be supporting Mitt Romney in the primaries and the general election.

  19. @John - Dana Millbank made his vow to start February 1st, after the SOTU speech. But I appreciate the visual. ;)

  20. I'm with SpinningStar on closed primaries. Here in New York State, you have to be registered in a party to vote in that party's primary, but that's not true in many states.

    Whenever I wonder how dark horse John McCain won the Republican nomination, I think about the boost he got in the Rhode Island Republican primary from Democrats voting for the Republican candidate they figured would be easiest to beat.

  21. This blog makes a very good point. If Palin fans are really disenfranchised, or the nominee was an 'anyone but Palin' selection, we really are screwed.

    However, I take strong exception to the oft repeated myth that the Estalishment wouldn't play ball when their favorite candidate didn't win, and the Tea Party types, always supported the general election candidate.

    That just isn't the truth. It turns on that even Karl Rove was endorsing O'donnell, despite her campaign calling his recent boss a gay adulterer. I can't think of a better example of the Lombardi rule than what Karl Rove did, but it seemed like nothing he could do was good enough because of this anti-establishment hysteria. Meanwhile, O'Donnell loves running as a third party candidate and obviously would have had she lost her primary. And she wouldn't have been alone. Hoffman did the same. I guess Murkowski is an example of the establishment, and it still blows me mind that she won after her nasty campaign an refusal to support the nominee.

    At any rate, the people refusing to honor the primary were all over, from all walks, and it's silly to convey the idea that one is more or less honorable, based merely on their location on the political spectrum (toward or away from the so-called establishment).

    That too is not a constructive message. Palin probably can't win in 2012. That's just the truth, based on how poorly many candidates more like her fared from Alaska to Nevada. But I know she'd make a much better President than Obama, and I also think that while electability is important, qualification for high office is an excellent proxy for electability.

    For example, the obviously unelectable O'donnell was also completely unqualified for the US Senate, and had some deep ethics problems. Had we simply nominated the person most qualified to represent DE in the most conservative way realistic, we'd have another GOP senator right now.

    If we nominate the man or woman who would be the best conservative president, I think electability will take care of itself. If Palin is the most qualified, that's an indictment on our party's weakness, but so be it, and I'll give her 100% of my support.

  22. I would say, focus more on the Congressional races. It's always hard to predict how the Presidential election will shake out, but the results of the Congressional elections has a lot to do with the quality of the candidates who get an early start. That's the tea party strategy that the progressives can't duplicate - work from the grassroots up to get the best possible candidates, and let the race for President work itself out, as it will tend to do anyway. Whether it's Palin or some other candidate, the strong possibility of Obama's re-election still exists. His ability to do further harm to the country must be minimized by increasing the numbers and strength of fiscally responsible member of Congress.

  23. Excellent points all. I admit, I'm in the "she can't win" camp, but you're making me think. That's good, right? Besides, whomever wins the nomination (even RINO progressive Romney, God help us all) will get my total support. We have to unseat BO, and I don't really care which (R) gets the job as long as he's gone and Congress is in conservative hands. I'm a bit more eager to see the Senate majority flip right now than the WH (though we HAVE to have that, of course to undo ObamaCare among other anti- and un-American policies this admin has and will enact). I'll get up to speed on the presidential primary when we have people who've actually thrown their hat into the ring.

  24. For smart people, the lack of serious thought given to Iowa and New Hampshire, and of course South Carolina, is problematic.

    Farmers in Iowa have more influence than they should and it hurts our country, as corruption is always inefficient.

    This corruption is literally a joke to the Ruling Class.

    And yet, I have never heard one Iowan ridiculed for their corrupt, starvation-inducing welfare kingdom.

  25. @Stephen, thanks for an honest critique. I personally think Sarah is a better candidate, and would make a better president, than Mitt, tho I'm ready to vote for either if selected in the primary.

    For instance, it was Sarah, not Mitt, who publicly opposed QE2 due to rising inflation. I actually support QE2, and inflation, as better than the continuing Recession and not-fully legal foreclosure issues, but anybody wanting a leader should respect Sarah for taking intellectual leadership on this issue.

    So, would you vote for Sarah if she was the nominee?

    Thanks for another fine post, Professor. Your title is perfect.

    I know she CAN win. And so can we.

  26. What do you mean if "She Can't Win," then neither can we?

    Obviously the lessons of Christine O'Witch and Sharron Angle have not penetrated the skulls of the Tea Partiers.

    Sarah Palin embarassed herself by letting her boy Joe Miller lose to write-in Candidate Murkowski.

    The only race Sarah Palin is capable of winning is the GOP nomination.

  27. While I agree that it's far too early to pass final judgment on who can win the general election too years from now, it's not too early to make the point that electability IS going to be a big issue in the primaries. The Tea Parties brought great energy to the last campaign, but they had failures as well as successes. If they have a failure in the 2012 Presidential election it will have big consequences.

  28. Thank you for this post! To allow such talk to deter anyone from supporting any candidate or even allowing "can't win" talk to stand unchallenged is to allow the media and the political class to determine who is even "allowed" to run in our primaries.

    I don't know that closed primaries would prevent party elections from being undermined, but requiring ID from voters, and aggressively prosecuting voter fraud will make a difference.

    But the greatest difference will be for all candidates to come forward to place their names on the actual Primary ballot and to BE ELECTED BY THE VOTERS - not by the pollsters and focus groups (and not by backroom negotiations like happened to the Democrats in 2008)! This business of dropping out because of some media poll of 500 people is poor politics, and it gives us poor candidates.

  29. (#2) After reading John H at Powerline, it is clear the demoralization strategy is working.
    All "Republican" candidates need to be publicly asked this question, over and over:
    If Sarah runs, and is chosen through the Rep primary as the nominee, will you support her against Pres. Obama?
    Unless the answer is a pretty unqualified yes, such a Republican/RINO shouldn't be taken too seriously by conservative voters.

  30. Hear, hear! Well said!

    Ummmm...except Huckabee. If he prevails, I really, really can't pull the lever for Huckabee, okay? I voted for Linc-freaking-Chafee once because of party loyalty, and my voting finger turned black and shriveled up.

    Never again. There are limits.

  31. Don't be so sure of that, Quite Rightly. I lived in Rhode Island then. I went to a John McCain rally in Cranston - they loved him. If ever McCain had a natural Republican constituency, it was useless squish-RINO Rhode Island Republicans.

    It's going to be a very big danger in 2012, though. If nobody primaries Obama, Democrats are going to be hanging around looking for something to do on primary day.

  32. I very much liked this line:

    "The issue is whether we will demoralize voters who would work hard to elect a Republican"

    Usually, it is the left who make all these attempts at demoralizing the Conservatives. But, their are significant bastions of Conservatism who are placing themselves in serious jeopardy. I don't believe Karl Rove was at all helpful when he started attacking O'Donnell and other already selected candidates. I suspect he cost them some votes.

    Then, we have the Powerline boys. They have drawn a line in the sand saying Palin cannot win. So, what do they do if she wins the primary? Are they going to sit out the general? Are thye going to undermine Palin? What is the whole point of their nay saying?

  33. "Where Tea Party candidates lost primaries, Tea Party supporters rallied around the winner, or at least did not actively seek to undermine the winners."

    I think you misunderstand the Tea Party. We are not a political party and certainly not Republicans. We will not rally around or stop undermining those who are taking this country in the wrong direction on government spending and the economy.

    We will undermine elected Republicans who don't get with the program, and are perfectly willing to support Democrats if they get with the program.

    We are also willing to undermine and work against "Tea Party Candidates" like Scott Brown who when elected betray us.

    Hear that Scott Brown?

  34. I'm a TEA party type of guy and I'm not afraid to vote a third party. Don't be fooled, America. Vote for what you believe in, not what someone tells you to believe.

  35. Wow, Grand Inquisitor thinks Karl Rove supported O'Donnell? It's exactly this 'support' that the professor is writing about. O'Donnell was savaged out of the gates by the establishment Republicans. Not only that but I find great disagreement that someone who has won a primary labeled as not being qualified for an office. It's not as if she was appointed by some committee. That's obvious. It's the voters you are saying are stupid. Every stab in her back was a direct slap to the voters, not her. All she did was run and win. That alone makes her 'qualified' to run on the Republican ticket. Now as a Republican you can either support her or support the opposition. The establishment chose to support the Democrat. Same will happen if Palin wins the nomination for President. The establishment blue bloods' line is blurred between Republican and Democrat and to them it's all a game. To us it's personal and destroying our very livelihood. This is the country club Republican's last chance at ANY power. If they choose to stab real Conservative candidates in the back then we will leave and start our own party. This may mean that we never again get a say in our government, but in the end we won't be sacrificing our principals. I'm betting that will be more attractive in the long run than the mushiness of no principals but just a name.

  36. I hope a whole bunch of journolistas sign up for the Pledge. Then Palin should announce on Feb 1 the formation of an exploratory committee. On Feb 2, she should release a detailed plan for true health-care reform that focuses on removing barriers to competition (allow sale of insurance across state lines, high-deductible policies paired with medical savings accounts, etc.) Then each day, another announcement that these people have sworn not to comment on.

    Think of it: An entire month of getting her message out without the Usual Suspects calling her anti-semitic for using the phrase "blood libel" or other such nonsense.

  37. Dana Milbank and the rest of the loons who self-impose their moratorium on writing about Palin will be like Chandler on "Friends" who swore off joking. They will explode. I'd really like to see the left all swear off Rush as well. The result would be hideously messy but the entire left would be gone. ;-) The only thing that keeps them going besides loathing for the Tea Party movement is their frothing loathing for Rush and Palin.

    Professor, excellent post! Shared on FB. :-)

  38. The best way to look at the "can't win" idea is with the mentality that it shouldn't matter then. If someone can't win then they won't win so stop talking about them and tell me about someone you believe can win. Every cycle there are several candidates that I mentally dismiss as not having a chance to win. Whether we are talking Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, or whoever it didn't matter who I dismiss because the voters will sort them out. I think some who are making noise about running this time are not electable. Heck, I thought McCain was unelectable in 2008 and he was heading to a blowout loss until he added excitement by picking a running mate that energized the base. Three people have dipped their toe into the waters for 2012 (Gingrich, Trump & Herman Cain). I like one (Cain) & don't care for the other two but I doubt these three have any chance of securing the nomination or winning the general. However, my belief that Gingrich is fatally flawed and can't win which I'm fairly certain is shared by most is not being repeated over and over by the "experts" who are making similar claim about Palin who I believe has a much better chance of winning. Why is that? Last point on the "can't win" idea is most of us "knew" in 2007 that Obama couldn't in 2008. Liberals were too racist to nominate a person of color and if they did then their rank & file wouldn't turn out in the general. Those of us that knew that were wrong. The economy collapsing and McCain's campaign helped us be wrong, but that just illustrates that we can not predict these things. It is very difficult to beat an incumbent. Palin can do it, but a lot needs to go right for her (or anyone else) to win in 2012.

    Separately, the primary system is definitely broken. We discuss it every four years and then nothing is done to change things. The same couple states should NOT always be the first to vote. I have never cast a vote that mattered in a primary. Politicians pander to early states which leads to lousy policy as anyone thinking of a future run for the presidency consider how Iowans may perceive their vote. Rotate states from early to late in the primary process.

  39. Excellent post.

    There are a few Republicans I really like and several more I can barely stand, but I've already decided I will vote GOP in the 2012 election because we can't stand 4 more years of Obama. However, I've also decided I won't give a dime to the GOP or any GOP candidate if the establishment runs off the few candidates I like.

    Dislike us and the candidates we support at your peril, GOP.

  40. I'm throwing my vote away for Gov. Palin in 2012!


  41. If i were the democrats, the first thing i would do is to goad sarah palin into running and make sure she wins the primaries via Operation Chaos.

    I guarantee you Bill if Palin gets nominated, the tea party will become irrelevant after nov 2012.

  42. If i were the democrats, the first thing i would do is to goad sarah palin into running and make sure she wins the primaries via Operation Chaos.

    I guarantee you Bill if Palin gets nominated, the tea party will become irrelevant after nov 2012.

    My money back if you are not satisfied?

  43. "My money back if you are not satisfied? "

    are you one of the 3 or 4 tea partier who thinks palin will win against obama in 2012? you probably thought christine o'witch was a great choice to run against the generic democrat marxist too huh?

  44. And she wouldn't have been alone. Hoffman did the same

    You are mistaken, Grand Inquistor. Mr. Hoffmann garnered the nomination of the Conservative Party of New York before the primary election he lost to Matthew Doheny. He could not be removed from the ballot but did endorse Doheny.

    In the special election in 2009, Mr. Hoffmann also ran as a 3d party candidate. The thing is, there had been no primary. The Republican candidate was a selection of the county chairman. She was selected only reluctantly - money men from central office were leaning hard on them. That candidate was a state capitol insider and a living breathing manifestation of the pathologies of New York politics. When her candidacy imploded, she withdrew and endorsed the Democratic candidate.

    The establishment GOP in New York manifest little interest in public policy and have only themselves to blame for losses in this race and several others.

  45. I think the leftists will also try to convince us that the effort to repeal Obamacare program is futile if the Senate doesn't address. It's the same psychology that Professor Jacobson speaks to in this article:


    Don't let them sell this crock of crap.

  46. I couldn't agree more!


  47. SP has been leading the fight against Obama for almost two years. We might as well make it official and nominate her in 2012. She has stood up to the left’s worse. We know she can. Can another?

    She has the right policy positions and has shown more fortitude than any other Republican contender over the last two years X 100.
    Knowing what the right thing to do is the easy part. It's having the courage to do the right thing, and the tenacity to see it through, that are the rare traits to find in a candidate. These are two of SP's strengths.

    Also, if another Republican candidate bests Palin, then we will have a good candidate.

    But if it’s the Left that beats her, and they are successful at diminishing SP, it assures that they will target, freeze, polarize, and use whatever other deceitful weapons they can conjure up on the next one of us they perceive as a threat. And then we'll just have another conservative become "unelectable," until we're left with one who truly is.