Jacob Heilbrunn

The Palin Factor

So is Sarah Palin the real winner of the 2010 midterm elections? Some of her protégés did well. Nikki Haley landed the governorship of South Carolina. But others didn't. Christine O'Donnell's hocus-pocus didn't fly in Delaware (on CNN she blamed Republican "cannibalism" for her defeat). She'll have to take her broom elsewhere.

David Ignatius thus argues that the Palin bubble is on the verge of popping. He maintains,

Palin is such a vocal self-promoter that it's easy to overlook how many of her pet GOP candidates lost. The most notable failures, based on current vote totals, were the Senate candidates: Sharon Angle in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and (apparently) Joe Miller in Alaska. That Palin couldn't even swing her home state of Alaska suggests that she is not as potent as her media hype.

I'm not so sure. Here's the overall scorecard for Palin, according to the AP:

Palin's bottom-line, though, had Tuesday night as a win for her. In races called, her backed candidates won 37 of 52 House contests. She backed seven victorious gubernatorial candidates. In the Senate, she went six for 10 in races.

If this is failure on Palin's part, what would success look like? 

Palin has weathered so many storms and triumphed--she's currently embroiled in a feud with Politico--that it would be reckless to count her out. Indeed, Palin is, according to the Wall Street Journal, seen as the most significant leader in the GOP. Palin has a lot of other things going for her. One trump card is her family, which is, essentially, an ongoing reality show.

 Even the tensions from the McCain era linger on among the progeny of both families. Bristol Palin and Meghan McCain are now involved in a spat over Bristol's failure to send in an absentee ballot, which Meghan says is "ridiculous." On the Tonight Show, Meghan announced, "If you didn't vote in my family that was like bad news. I've been voting since I turned 18." How cool is that? Like.

If Republican politics retains its dynastic character, perhaps Bristol and Meghan will square off one day for the presidential nomination. For now, it's Sarah Palin who's the power broker in the GOP. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and a host of other potential candidates will have to figure out how to deal with Palin who has become a far more seasoned public speaker. She's appearing soon in her own reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska." If she decides to run for the presidency, next up might be "Sarah Palin's America." 


(Photo by Bruce Tuten)