Iowa State Daily
In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, Sarah Palin shows strengths that none of the other GOP contenders have. According to analysis by the Associated Press "[s]he tops the list as the most empathetic figure and "runs almost even with Romney on the question of who best reflects the party's core values and on who is most compatible with people on the issues."
These are very important "deep" factors that can motivate people to participate politically.
On the horse-race question — who's ahead and who's coming around the turn at fast speed — Palin got 23 percent and Romney 22 percent among non-college Republicans. However, Romney leads 32 to 9 percent among college graduates.
"Palin is also first or tied for the top spot in both groups when it comes to her connection to people's problems. Above all, it is this "connection factor" that would allow Palin to quickly transform the race, were she to jump in," according to the Washington Post.
The news media have largely neglected Palin because she has not bought space and asked to be on the Iowa (Ames) GOP Straw Poll in August. She has also not officially declared that she will run for President. However, she has been touring the country, giving major interviews to magazines, and hoarding a very nice stack of cash from her various enterprises, which include books, TV specials, speeches and her work for Fox.
In Newsweek, Peter J. Boyer features her in a very flattering article that was published July 18. The cover of the magazine reads "I can win" and features a posed and very glamorous-looking Palin with the headline, "Sarah Palin on why she's confident — and how she'll decide whether to run in 2012."
When I talked to GOP contacts and friends, the opinion was pretty consistently this. Palin is a big "silent" factor in the 2011 Iowa events (debates and Ames straw poll) and will lurk in the background until caucus night is over in 2012. She may even skip the caucuses and decide to jump in at the last moment. However, in primaries there are ballot printing and candidate filing deadlines, so she cannot wait too long.
One acquaintance, a lifelong Republican, said, "Steffen, she's like the severe storms center hurricane forecast for the season. When they say this year will be an exceptionally active hurricane season, everyone from the Gulf States to Maine is jumpy, looking over their shoulder, getting plywood ready to board up, getting hurricane supplies, arranging to have their boat hauled out should a big one hit. All of the Republican candidates right now are looking over their shoulder to see if Hurricane Sarah might strike!"
I thought that was a sweet metaphor.
Palin has a passionate base of support in the public because she represents the only outsider, populist and unpredictable candidate. Oddly enough, she would also be one of the only GOP candidates (Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the other potential new entrant) who has not signed off on pledges from Iowa conservative "kingmaker" Bob Vander Plaats and others. These are "written in stone" promises about deficits, budgets, gay marriage, abortion and foreign policy issues such as Libya and Afghanistan that these candidates will now be bound to for the rest of the 2012 political season.
Being an unknown and unpredictable political force for 2012 has significant advantages. If nothing else, Palin can emerge from the early "mutual bashing events" such as early debates and the Ames Straw Poll un-bloodied.
Palin can, in other words, hover above all of this and swoop down on the GOP adversaries like the bald eagle I saw from the helm of my sailboat, talons out front, snatching a hapless Merganser duck at the tip of Pt. Bolin, right by the U.S. Navy torpedo-testing facility coming into Liberty Bay, Wash. I'm sure the other GOP candidates will scatter just like the fortunate ducks that were in the water but escaped the mighty raptor!
With Michelle Bachmann misspeaking so often, and now with the revelation that she suffers from severe migraines and is often heavily medicated, her appeal may wane a bit. And, with the depth of gut-feeling enthusiasm for the other GOP contenders pretty shallow in all the polls I've seen, we underestimate the Palin factor at our own risk.
By the way, I also heard that there may be a very well-organized grassroots movement to write her name in at the Ames Straw Poll, so keep an eye on that.