Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WaPo's Cillizza: Palin is the only true star of the Republican field

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says Sarah Palin is the most important Republican presidential candidate. Cillizza tries to blunt the impact of specifically refusing fellow WaPo writer Dana Milbank's call for a February Palin news boycott, but Cillizza doesn't buy Milbank's line that Palin is not really important.
"Like it or not (and lots of people don't like it), Palin is the prime mover in the 2012 presidential field."
. . .
"She isn't [as important as Charles Krauthammer]. But, she is the person that every candidate mulling a 2012 bid of their own wonders about, gossips about and worries about.

"Because, the simple truth is that Palin is the only true star of the Republican field. She is the only person -- and every strategist in every other presidential campaign will privately acknowledge this -- who could draw 10,000 people in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina at an event."
. . .
"In conversations with neutral Republican operatives, there is a widespread belief that she begins every primary or caucus with between 20 percent and 30 percent, a vote share that in a crowded field could well be enough to deliver her wins in places like the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary.

"(Remember that in 2008 former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won Iowa with 34 percent of the vote and Arizona Sen. John McCain won South Carolina with 33 percent.)"
. . .
"But, she is a force -- of considerable power -- within the Republican party thanks to the devotion of her followers, followers who are generally those conservative voters who have an outsized hand in deciding the identity of the party's presidential nominee."
Along the way Cillizza makes a couple of strange assertions. The first, in trying to keep Ross Douthat from looking clueless, is that Charles Krauthammer is a more important conservative voice than Palin. Krauthammer could be more important if you don't count ability to change existing or proposed legislation (e.g., who had more impact on actual content of the Obamacare bill and reaction to it, Palin or Krauthammer?). Krauthammer might also win the "important" badge if getting candidates elected or getting yourself elected to high office isn't included. But that's like saying that announcer Joe Buck is more important to football than quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Each helps football, but there wouldn't be a game without the player.

The second strange comment comes after noting that Palin easily draws crowds of 10,000. Cillizza then tells us that not everyone in the crowd will vote for Palin. Duh! I wonder how many times he made that observation about the crowds Barack Obama drew in 2008. Unless crowds are angry (e.g., townhall meetings in 2009), drawing big crowds is a sign of popular support whether or not every person in the crowd ends up voting for the candidate. In the 2008 campaign Palin's crowds were always enthusiastic and the vast majority of those interviewed clearly said they would vote for her.

It's always fun to see pundits whose credibility lies more in accuracy (Cillizza) than mere opinion (Milbank, Douthat), politely school colleagues about political realities.

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