Conservative explains why Sarah Palin’s congressional run could be an uphill climb

Conservative explains why Sarah Palin’s congressional run could be an uphill climb

Sarah Palin, on April 1, announced that she is running for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and former President Donald Trump has endorsed her. Fourteen years after being chosen as the late Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, the former Alaska governor still has her share of admirers on the far right. But conservative Washington Post opinion writer Henry Olsen, in his April 4 column, lays out some reasons why the 58-year-old Palin’s “road back to relevance is likely harder than the Republican icon expects.”

“Love her or loathe her, Palin’s brand of showmanship has been impossible to ignore,” Olsen writes. “In her prime, Palin’s mixture of conservative sloganeering — ‘lamestream media’ — and political stunting was a PG-rated version of former President Donald Trump before he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower. No wonder, then, that Trump has enthusiastically endorsed her as she tries to rekindle the magic.”

Olsen continues, “Her past and Trump’s endorsement clearly make her a contender. But they don’t necessarily make her the favorite.”

Palin has been involved in Alaska politics since the early 1990s, when she was elected to the Wasilla City Council. After being elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996, she was elected governor of Alaska in 2006. But Palin resigned as governor in 2009 — a move that frustrated many of her supporters.

“Palin has been absent from Alaska politics since she resigned as governor in 2009,” Olsen observes. “She lives in Wasilla, Alaska, the hometown she made famous, but hasn’t been active in local GOP functions for years. Her national prominence has also hurt her standing at home. Multiple surveys show the former governor is unpopular among Alaskans. The most recent, from 2018, found only 31% of Alaskans viewed her favorably compared with 51% who viewed her unfavorably. Given her inactivity in recent years, she likely has even less potential support than she had then.”

Olsen adds, “Alaska’s decision to ditch partisan primaries complicates her path forward even further. Now, candidates of all parties compete in one primary election, and the top four regardless of party advance to the general election.”

The conservative Post columnist goes on to note that Palin is “not the only serious candidate in the race”; she will be up against independent Al Gross as well as Republicans who include Nick Begich III, Alaska State Sen. Josh Revak and former Alaska State Sen. John Coghill.

“It’s not inconceivable that these four could all best Palin in the primary and deny her a slot in the final four,” Olsen notes. “That means Palin will likely rely on Trump to power her into contention despite her national standing.… Tying herself tightly to Trump could make it difficult for her GOP contenders to attack her, since that would entail explaining why Trump is wrong. Still, Trump’s reach is limited even in a GOP electorate, as the weak performances of many of his other endorsees have shown.”

Alaska is a red state; Trump defeated now-President Joe Biden by 10% in the 2020 presidential election. But not all Alaska Republicans are far-right MAGA devotees. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, for example, is a moderate conservative and has announced that she will be voting to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden’s nominee to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Trump-style conservatism is a minority position even in Alaska, and the ranked-choice voting process means she will need moderate Republicans and independents to back her in the final pairing,” Olsen writes. “Palin was a much more moderate figure as governor than when she emerged on the national scene, and she would be wise to reprise some of her less ideological persona as she moves forward. But a decade of taking arrows from America’s left may have erased those aspects from her worldview.”

Olsen continues, “Hollywood has shown that audiences love sequels. We’ll find out soon if ‘Sarah Palin: Mama Grizzly Strikes Back’ scores at Alaska’s box office.”

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