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Palin in the Mainstream

Why Democratic attempts to link her to GOP candidates don't work.

11:54 AM, May 14, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Sarah Palin delivered the keynote address to a breakfast of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony's List this morning. The speech was typical for Palin: attacks on big government and the media, a robust defense of the culture of life using her personal narrative as an example, and support for a "frontier feminism" opposed to the version of women's liberation found in faculty lounges at "East Coast" schools. You can watch the speech here.

Palin in the Mainstream

As I listened to the speech, I was struck by how Palin's positions are widely shared. She opposes the health care law -- so does the public. She's concerned about the federal deficit -- so is the public (see question 10b). She supports the Arizona illegal immigration law -- so does the public. She supports the right to life -- and the public is moving toward her. She supports the Afghanistan surge and the current course in Iraq -- both Obama administration policies.

Yet Palin continues to have high negative ratings. Why? Not because of her politics. Because independents, and many Republicans, do not believe she is qualified to hold high office. (Democratic support for Palin is a lost cause.) Perhaps some cultural elitism is at work as well. But, on the whole, I'd say the resistance to Palin is based on certain unique traits of hers that concern large numbers of people -- her qualifications, her preparedness, her decision to leave the governorship, and her unwillingness to participate in media ritual sacrifice.

This is why the Democrats' feverish attempts to link Palin to Republican candidates have failed. Democrats love to bring up Palin because her poll numbers are lousy. They brought her up with Bob McDonnell in Virginia and with Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Lately they've been trying to link her to Mark Kirk in Illinois. But the McDonnell and Brown attacks didn't work, and the Kirk attack won't work, either. Voters are sophisticated enough to distinguish between politicians. They know who is on the ballot and who isn't -- and Sarah Palin isn't. (Nor is George W. Bush.) And to the extent that Democrats attack Republican candidates because they share Palin's politics -- well, the public is well disposed to those politics, at least for the moment.

Palin's personality and sociocultural populism may hurt her in 2012 (though not necessarily in a GOP primary). They are irrelevant, however, to voters' calculations in 2010. The Democrats can bash her all they want. The storm is still coming.

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