Can Palin Beat Obama?

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’ve been watching the compelling Fox News documentary Right All Along: The Rise, Fall and Future of Conservatism over the last few weeks (Sundays 9pm est).  Last night, narrator Brit Hume reported that when Ronald Reagan left the California governor’s office in 1975 he was offered a number of attractive opportunities–a syndicated column, a weekly television commentary, etc. But Reagan chose regular radio addresses instead.  Many thought he was crazy to embrace a media outlet that only working class people held in any esteem. 

Yet, Reagan believed that conservatism could become a populist phenomenon.  He was right and foresaw the right-wing talk radio revolution coming more than 10-years before it broke big.

Reagan was still belittled by liberals as uneducated and unsophisticated.  Many leftists celebrated his Republican nomination in 1980 believing that it insured a Carter victory.  They were dead wrong.

Today, liberals feel the same way about former Governor Sarah Palin as they did about Reagan and many scoffed at her decision to film a reality TV show.  But does Palin have the foresight that Reagan did? Will she lull the left to sleep and use a populist medium to build a grassroots base that will topple the well-educated President who chooses his words carefully just as Carter did? 

There are obvious parallels between Palin and Reagan that go beyond the aforementioned.  Both are powerful and charming speakers who have the rare ability to be both tough and charming at the same time.  Yet, there are real differences as well.  Reagan wouldn’t have resigned his office early regardless of how many lawsuits he was having to pay for and the Gipper never would have flubbed an interview like Palin did with Katie Curry. 

Yet, it is a mistake to write Palin off.  She is a polarizing figure but so was Reagan in a day and age when conservatives were considered a bit radical even by most Republicans.  If she can articulate nuanced public policy positions in tough corners, quit attacking the press all the time via Twitter and truly organize a base of adoring working and middle-class Americans via books, speaking tours and even her reality TV show then she can indeed beat President Obama.

Most liberals cannot imagine such a scenario but then their 1980 counterparts believed the same about Reagan and we all saw how that turned out.

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