Palin, Polling, and the Upside of “Baggage”

Doug suggested a couple days ago that I cross-post this from my own blog; I’ve been having some wonky computer problems, though, so my apologies for the delay. It’s still worth taking note of Jennifer Rubin’s excellent point over on Commentary’s “Contentions” blog that at this stage, polls of GOP 2012 presidential contenders are basically meaningless (a point which others have made as well, but which needs to be repeated frequently); it’s also worth pointing out an exception to her argument that she herself doesn’t catch, one which means that those polls aren’t quite as meaningless as they would normally be. Rubin writes,

They are a function of name identification. The field is not set, the candidates have not yet engaged, and the inevitable unflattering revelations haven’t come.

It’s absolutely true that there is much to happen between now and the 2012 primary season, that we don’t actually know who will be running, and that as Rubin says, “You actually have to see how the candidates perform and who cannabalizes whose voters”; these are things more pundits should bear in mind. At the same time, there’s one partial exception to her argument: Sarah Palin. For Gov. Palin, those inevitable unflattering revelations have come, and been rehashed, and been beaten to death, along with a whole host of attempts to invent additional ones. There’s nothing left for enemies to dig up, it’s all out there.

Those who would marginalize her like to talk about her “baggage,” but the truth is, Gov. Palin doesn’t really have baggage. Change the metaphor, think of the sort of revelations Rubin is talking about as a political plague, and there’s a much more apt way to describe her situation: Gov. Palin has been inoculated. She’s already had that plague and survived. Yes, that has had its effect on her popularity and public image, and yes, that will be a particular challenge for her to overcome—but the upside to that is a degree of immunity that will make it hard for rivals to take her down. The polling on them (at least most of them) is indeed before the “inevitable unflattering revelations” that will wipe some of them out and cripple others; hers is after, and well after. That is no small advantage.

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