Outside of Republicans, she’s not popular at all. According to our NBC/WSJ poll, just 29% view her favorably, compared with 43% who view her unfavorably (not far from George W. Bush’s 29%-50% score). In addition, the poll shows that 52% have problems with a candidate who has been endorsed by Palin, versus only 25% who are comfortable with that attribute. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Palin is more of a political celebrity than a political figure. ~First Read
This is true, but there is nothing here about Palin that we know now that we didn’t already know a year or a year and a half ago. Her unfavorables among non-Republicans have gone up steadily since the Republican convention in 2008, and outside of a dedicated core of admirers and a few critics no one is taking her political chances seriously. This is the same as it has been for a very long time. As Josh Green notes, it would normally be absurd to think that someone with a 14-point favorability deficit was a serious presidential contender, and there aren’t that many non-partisans who think that she is anything of the kind. The reality is that the more independents and Democrats see of Palin, the less they like. In a country where these people make up at least 65% of the electorate, Palin is essentially unelectable in a general election. This isn’t a difficult call to make. The question to which we don’t know the answer yet is whether the GOP is so willfully blind to this reality and so bent on self-destruction in 2012 that the party nominates her anyway. For all of the reasons I have given before, I very much doubt that Republicans are this foolish. It is possible that the GOP will decide to immolate itself as part of an elaborate reality TV experiment, but they have every incentive not to want to do that.
We have good reason to expect that the 2012 Republican field will be large and support will once again be fairly evenly divided. This might give Palin a better chance than she would have otherwise, but many of her likely rivals are going to be going after the same voters who view Palin favorably. For that matter, she is not favorably viewed by all Republicans. That leaves a huge opening for a more credible, electable candidate to pull together some fraction of conservatives together with the primary anti-Palin vote. As it is, she has just 66% favorability with self-identified Tea Party supporters, and she is supposed to be one of their political heroes. If she can’t even consolidate all of the Tea Party’s approximately 18% of the vote, why does anyone think she can win at least a third of the vote in primaries that she will need to get the nomination?
If she did somehow pull it off, Democrats would spend most of the summer and fall of 2012 rubbing their eyes in disbelief at their good fortune. Even in a fairly polarized national electorate where McCain/Palin could manage to get 47% of the vote in the midst of a financial meltdown at the tail end of the second term of one of the three most unpopular postwar Presidents, a ticket headed by Palin would be hard-pressed to break 40%. Palin as the nominee would probably make 2012 the most lopsided election victory for the incumbent President since 1984.