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Sarah Palin’s Savvy Picks

When Sarah Palin, in a rambling lakeside announcement last July in Wasilla, said she was quitting as governor of Alaska because of the abuse she and her family were taking from petty politicians and a feral press, she was written off as dead by the pundits.

“A quitter, can’t take the heat,” was the Beltway consensus.

Yet it seems that was no more the end of Sarah than it was the end of Richard Nixon when, after losing to Gov. Pat Brown in California in 1962, he spat at the press: “Just think how much you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

Six years later, Nixon took the oath on the Capitol steps.

And though the media have painted Palin as a ditz, no politician in memory has conducted a more brilliant pre-presidential campaign, if that is what she is about, than the lady who calls herself “the Mama Grizzly.”

Consider Tuesday. Palin had gambled big by going into South Carolina to endorse Nikki Haley, a state legislator running last for the GOP nomination for governor — against the lieutenant governor, the attorney general and a congressman.

Haley instantly vaulted into the lead, taking 49 percent on primary day, and is headed for the governor’s mansion — in a Palmetto State that holds what is often the decisive primary in presidential nomination runs.

Nikki was Sarah’s kind of conservative with a populist touch.

But Terry Branstad is not. This ex-governor of Iowa, who served four terms ending in 1998, is a moderate. Yet Palin endorsed him in his comeback bid over a conservative backed by Dr. James Dobson and Mike Huckabee.

After his victory Tuesday, Branstad, too, is headed for the governor’s mansion in a state that hosts the first big battle of 2012 — the Iowa caucuses.

By bringing conservatives to Branstad’s camp, Palin can claim some credit for returning him to office, though Mitt Romney backed Branstad earlier and his and Branstad’s staffs are said to be wired.

The endorsement of Branstad suggests Palin, a politician of principle, has a pragmatic streak. She acts not only out of instinct but cold calculation. How else to explain the Branstad endorsement over a social conservative than a decision to befriend a future GOP governor in the first battleground state of 2012?

Other interventions this cycle reveal Palin to be far more savvy than the caricature drawn by the left.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a colleague of Palin’s in the GOP Governor’s Association, was facing an uphill battle against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who had the backing of Dick Cheney — Mr. National Security and the most visible national Republican of 2009.

Cheney went to Texas for Hutchison. Palin went in for Perry, who had scrambled to the Tea Party right, even raising the specter of secession. Perry won in a walk. Palin 1, Cheney 0.

Perry will lead the second-largest bloc of delegates to the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. The largest will come from California, where Carly Fiorina — another one of Palin’s mama grizzlies — won the GOP Senate nod on Tuesday. Palin had endorsed her over the more conservative Chuck DeVore.

In Kentucky, where the establishment backed Mitch McConnell’s handpicked successor to Sen. Jim Bunning, Trey Grayson, and Cheney went in for Grayson, Palin endorsed Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, who has a loyal libertarian following.

With Palin and Tea Party backing, Rand won. The Pauls, too, owe a debt to Sarah. Palin 2, Cheney 0.

In Arizona, Palin, who is closer in her politics to J.D. Hayworth, came to campaign for embattled Sen. John McCain, who chose her as his running mate and made her a star.

McCain’s aides have been anonymously trashing Sarah as an airhead who had caused the ticket’s defeat. She repaid their disloyalty with unqualified loyalty to McCain, who is unlikely to forget what she did, at some cost to herself.

But it was Sarah’s first intervention, in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, where she showed a boldness that marks the better politicians.

Liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava was handpicked by the party to face Democrat Bill Owens in the Republican district. Doug Hoffman, endorsed by the Conservative Party, jumped in. Newt Gingrich urged Republicans to stand by the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Scozzafava.

Palin went rogue and declared for Hoffman, who surged past Scozzafava, who fell to third, bowed out and endorsed Owens, who won by two. That was the first manifestation of Palin Power. Palin 1, Newt 0.

Looking over Palin’s endorsements — McCain over J.D., Fiorina over DeVore, Branstad over Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts — the lady is not running for Mrs. Conservative. The one explanation that makes the most sense of all the seeming inconsistencies in endorsements is that Mama Grizzly is thinking about moving the Wasilla brood into the big house.

Patrick J. Buchanan is founding editor of The American Conservative and author, most recently, of Churchill, Hitler, and the “Unnecessary War” [1].


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#1 Comment By pc On June 10, 2010 @ 11:03 pm

God help us.

I stayed home rather than vote for McCain, which would have brought us Amnesty and an Iranian war. Palin’s no better.

#2 Comment By Mad Doc MacRae On June 11, 2010 @ 12:27 am

“Other interventions this cycle reveal Palin to be far more savvy than the caricature drawn by the left.”

I prefer “low cunning” myself.

#3 Comment By Bill Fanning On June 11, 2010 @ 10:02 am

Amen, pc.

#4 Comment By Michael On June 11, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

If she runs she will lose, no one can beat President Obama ,he has special help that he does not even know.

#5 Comment By Adam Rurik On June 11, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

If Palin is elected President on Nov. 6th. 2012, then I hope the Mayans turn out to be right about what goes down on Dec. 21st!!!

#6 Comment By James Reuther On June 11, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

Geez. Did Pat just compare Palin’s political accumen to Richard Nixon’s? Scary thing to consider, but the facts certainly seem to paint the picture.

President Palin. Shoot me now.

#7 Comment By ymchoo On June 11, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

Snow White vs The Seven Dwarfs

The GOP will soon be known as Snow White vs The Seven Dwarfs with Sarah “Snow White” Palin leading such GOP Dwarfs as Huckabee, Gingrich, Pawlenty, Thune, DeMint, Romney and Ron Paul. When Snow White leads, The Seven Dwarfs follow.

#8 Pingback By Rightwing Links (June 11, 2010) On June 11, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

[…] Sarah Palin’s Savvy Picks We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish. — F. A. Hayek […]

#9 Comment By tbraton On June 12, 2010 @ 5:23 am

For me, the choice of Sarah Palin by John McCain was icing on the cake, a clear sign (if one was necessary) that McCain was senile and unfit to be President of the U.S. That being said, I ackowledge her strong drawing power among certain segments of the Republican Party base, as evidenced by her astromical book sales But I believe that Pat exaggerates the power of her endorsement. Case in point is her last minute endorsement of Terry Branstad in Iowa, which came just a few days before the Iowa primary. Her endorsement probably had no effect whatsoever on the final result. All it shows is that Ms. Sarah (or, properly speaking, her advisers) know how to read poll results. She probably couldn’t tell you which polls she read, but I’m sure she read “all of em.”
P.S.—I will acknowledge that her endorsement of Nikki Haley in South Carolina did pull Haley from the back of the pack to a runaway victory, but recent events show (if we needed any convincing) that South Carolina is a special corner of America and one shouldn’t generalize about the rest of the U.S. based on the results from South Carolina.

#10 Comment By peter On June 12, 2010 @ 7:45 am

Ugh. I lost a lot of respect for Pat by his gushing schoolboy ways for SP. At least Taki was honest about it, saying something cabout her shapely legs if I remember correctly.

8 years with an Evangelical in the White House. Can we get a 20 year break from that, please?

#11 Comment By tbraton On June 12, 2010 @ 8:20 am

As for me, the choice of Sarah Palin by John McCain was the icing on the cake, and the final confirmation that McCain was senile and unfit to be President. Having said that, I have to concede that Palin is extraordinarily popular among certain segments of the Republican Party base, as evidenced by her astronomical book sales. Nevertheless, I believe Pat exaggerates the effect of her political endorsements. Case in point is her last minute endorsement Terry Branstad, which came just a few days before Iowa’s primary. I don’t believe her endorsement contributed significantly to Branstad’s victory margin. All it showed was that Palin (or, more properly speaking, her advisers) knows how to read polls. Ms Sarah might not be able to tell you which polls she read, but you can be dang sure she read “all of em.”

P.S.–I will acknowledge that Palin’s endorsement of Nikki Haley was responsible for elevating Haley from the bottom of the pack to her victory in the South Carolina primary. But, as recent events remind us (as if we needed reminding), South Carolina represents one of the odder corners in our political landscape, and what happens in South Carolina generally stays in South Carolina.

#12 Comment By MattSwartz On June 12, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

8 years with an Evangelical in the White House. Can we get a 20 year break from that, please?

Bush was a Methodist who employed speechwriters with a good understanding of which Southern Baptist catchphrases tested well in the South and West.

Making his abject failure part of a religious narrative is easy, but it’s cheap and inaccurate.

#13 Comment By Majumder On June 12, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

In November of 2008, I voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. It is now obvious that whomever I vote for do not ultimately win the race.

In 2008, Sarah Palin said, “Drill Baby Drill”.

In the aftermath of great havoc created by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. (today known as the British Petroleum), Sarah Palin in 2012 will probably say, “Kill Baby Kill”.

American lives are cheap!!!

70,000 died in Vietnam. 10,000 died in Iraq-Afghanistan. A million died in Western Europe. 50,000 died in Korean peninsula.

But, for many generations, innocent Americans will continue to die this time from cancer and other debilitating diseases in the Mexican gulf region for many decades to come due to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.

For Sarah Palin, “Drill Baby Drill” has now become “Kill Baby Kill”.

#14 Comment By Adam Rurik On June 14, 2010 @ 12:44 am

Sarah Palin. Savvy.

No. Just…no. Uh-uh.

#15 Comment By Siegfried On June 14, 2010 @ 8:13 am

I suspect that Sarah will share the eventual fate of Father Coughlin, who eventually overstepped and fell from grace.

#16 Comment By TomT On June 14, 2010 @ 8:27 am

We’ve known where we stand on this issue for some time now:

“The longer she spoke, the less interesting she seemed, and …” “the more exposure she gets on the campaign trail and in debate with Biden, the more her star will fade.”


“the McCain-Palin ticket is on course to disprove the old adage that no one ever went broke overestimating the stupidity of the American public. Even Homo boobiens has to be smarter than this…”


#17 Comment By Publius Cato On June 14, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

So.. the government is going to start painting her as anti-American and use the FCC to silence her?

#18 Comment By peter On June 15, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

Thanks for correcting my foolish ways, MattS. Guess he had me fooled. Looks like he has you fooled, too, if ya get my drift.

#19 Comment By Mayme On June 17, 2010 @ 6:47 am

It will be Romney with Scott Brown. Romney can’t afford a woman this round.

#20 Comment By doublebogi On June 18, 2010 @ 10:51 am

seems I’m the only Sarah fan . . .go Sarah

#21 Comment By Tea Partier On June 18, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

It is fascinating how so many people have written Palin off as obviously irrelevent, but many seem very compelled to justify the position.

The fact is that she has a devout following because she refuses to buckle to the bullies of the left, specifically those in the press. Another fact is that she is right on issues like energy, national defense, homeland security and runaway spending. I guess that makes it Palin 4 Obama 0.