It was late August, and though McCain had just put together one of his most successful months, he still lacked excitement and panache. While his opponent Senator Barack Obama has reached a nearly demagogue status—capped off by a speech to nearly 100,000 people in front of a set of baronial Greek columns—McCain had the support of a lackluster base.
Enter, then, the governor of the Last Frontier, Sarah Palin. She’s the pitbull in lipstick: a youthful and lively political unknown with striking conservative credentials who has taken the country by storm. Republicans across the country can’t get enough of her—both the secular and religious bases are buzzing, and the energy that McCain was lacking has been added in spades. Suddenly, 2008 is no longer the Barack Obama coronation tour.
There is now a palpable excitement— spanning the entire GOP—that has been absent since the days of Ronald Reagan. It’s quite simple: the Republicans have a new star in their midst. Some have even equated Palin with the young Ronald Reagan.
But is Palin’s vice-president candidacy a win-win situation for her?
If the McCain-Palin ticket wins on November 4th, Palin becomes vice-president and the party’s standard-bearer once McCain leaves office, be it in 2012 or 2016. Should she choose to seek the Republican nomination for president, she should have as little trouble securing it as George H.W. Bush and Al Gore did when their terms as vice-president expired.
But let’s say that come January 20th, 2009, Palin is back in Alaska hunting moose. What then?
Palin would be set up nicely for a 2012 run against Obama—in my mind, she would be the prohibitive favorite for the nomination. It was at this point four years ago that Obama gave his remarkable keynote address at the Democratic convention, which elevated him to the national stage. Had it not been for the Clinton political machine, Obama would have secured the nomination easily.
Palin is Obama’s counterpart, except that in four years, she will not have a Clinton-esque machine standing in her way during the primaries. Who will challenge her? Mike Huckabee, who gained Evangelical support but terrified the rest of the party with his ignorance of foreign and economic policy? Mitt Romney, a slick politician in the John Kerry mold who pleases few but turns off many? Charlie Crist, the very definition of a RINO, whose sexuality is constantly questioned?
In just a few weeks as a national figure, Palin has already shown that she’s no Dan Quayle; instead, she is the face of a new generation of Republican leadership. For the past eight years, the party of Reagan has been on life-support—President Bush’s rampant spending and increased government oversight contradict the idea set out by Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
But Palin and a crew of popular young politicians look to return the GOP back to its roots. Along with leaders like Rob Portman, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Mark Sanford, and other ethics-minded fiscal and ideological conservatives, she is helping to revive a GOP brand that has taken a serious hit over the past eight years. In the process, conservatives who soured on the first President Bush, and who stood tentatively with the second, may have finally found Reagan’s heir apparent.
And what Republican in their right mind would want to run against that?
Of course, these scenarios hinge on a number of variables that we cannot control—mainly, the absence of a major scandal arising either during the campaign, or her time as governor, or her vice-presidency. But assuming she stays relatively clean throughout the process, we must come to another conclusion: Sarah Palin, regardless of the outcome of the 2008 election, will adorn our national stage for years to come.