Positively Palin—Sixty-four percent of Republicans polled by Rasmussen shortly after the election said that they would choose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be their party’s presidential candidate in 2012; 91 percent of Republicans in the same poll responded that they have a “favorable” view of her, while 65 percent said “very favorable,” and only 8 percent said they had an “unfavorable” view of John McCain’s quick pick for a running mate.
The focus on Palin’s numbers plays into a fight to resurrect the moribund party. Two days after the election, a group of conservative Republicans retreated to the Virginia home of right-wing media critic Brett Bozell. (Bozell concluded that the media defeated John McCain, an argument that fails to give enough credit to the McCain campaign itself.) Among the conservatives discussing the failure—and future—of the party were Grover Norquist, the anti-tax extremist from Americans for Tax Reform; Leonard Leo of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, which focuses on the federal judiciary; and Christian-right leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Republican governors are going to meet later this month in Florida, where Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Huntsman Jr. of Utah, and Mark Sanford of South Carolina are the marquee names. The American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference is scheduled for late February, in Washington, D.C.
Last February, CPACers booed McCain when he addressed their convention several hours after their preferred candidate, Mitt Romney, had made a speech there announcing his withdrawal from the race. CPAC has Palin listed as an invited speaker. The organization has become something of a Ronald Reagan cult. Its February meeting will provide an early indication of Palin’s shelf life and the direction the party will take.
Newt’s Back!—A month before the party of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) suffered a defeat at the polls, when House Republicans lost 20 seats, he lost what amounted to a vote of confidence by his party colleagues. In late September, while financial institutions at home and abroad waited for the Congress to pass a financial bailout bill sent to the Hill by a Republican, Boehner failed to deliver the votes he had promised the Democratic House leadership. The bill’s merits notwithstanding, Boehner’s failure was stunning. Only sixty-five Republicans, a third of the conference that Boehner leads, voted with the 140 Democrats, as the initial bailout fell short by twelve votes.
Boehner’s loss was Newt Gingrich’s gain. While Boehner was whipping the bill (legislative jargon that describes rounding up votes), the former Republican speaker was whipping against it—an almost unprecedented intrusion of a former leader into the legislative process. Gingrich’s legislative play could be read as the beginning of his campaign to lead the Republican Party out of the wilderness. In a November 8 column, retired columnist Robert Novak, who often serves as a messenger boy for conservative Republican leaders, made the case for “Gingrich 2012.” After the election, Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) resigned his leadership position. Boehner is hanging on.
The Lowest Point—The last vulgar gasp of a political campaign team—which continues to leak and back-stab weeks after the election was concluded—was John McCain’s smear of a Palestinian author and scholar on the Columbia University faculty. During a radio interview in Miami in the week leading up to the election, McCain urged the Los Angeles Times to release a tape in which professor Rashid Khalidi and Barack Obama were reportedly filmed together at a dinner. “I’m not in the business of talking about media bias,” McCain said. “But if there was a tape of John McCain with a neo-Nazi being held by some media outlet, I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different.”
In providing the national media a story line that compared a highly regarded scholar with a Nazi, McCain again proved that there were few things to which he would not stoop to win an election (an election already lost by the time he got around to besmirching Khalidi). McCain’s comment also provided the fresh offal for media bottom feeders. Fox News’s Sean Hannity sent a camera crew out to ambush Khalidi in a university corridor. A guest host for hate-radio diva Laura Ingraham told her listeners that Khalidi is a terrorist, joking that he used a woman pushing a baby stroller as a “human shield” to protect himself from the Fox reporter.