Some will argue that it’s unreasonable to claim Governor Palin can come back against Obama under the reasoning that Reagan was able to do so against Carter in 1980 because Reagan was an once-in-a-lifetime political talent. Some will also argue that it’s unreasonable to claim that Governor Palin can come back against Obama under the reasoning that George H.W. Bush came back against Michael Dukakis in 1988 because Bush was a sitting VP who faced a weak Democrat (this argument of course ignores the fact that in the summer of 1988, Michael Dukakis was a significantly more popular figure than Barack Obama is now and that George H.W. Bush, like Palin, was purportedly a figure who everyone knew and someone whom all voters had allegedly formed a hard opinion about. Also, Palin leads Obama by 15 in Texas right now while Bush was losing the Lone-Star State by double-digits to Dukakis just three-four months before election day in 1988).
If you don’t believe that the comebacks staged by Presidents Reagan and Bush in the 80s are good analogies for a Palin comeback, then look no further than Jan Brewer’s comeback in 2010 as a potential model for how Governor Palin can also come back from whatever deficit she has against Obama (credible polling shows that this deficit isn’t very large).
Jan Brewer became the Governor of Arizona when Janet Napolitano resigned to take a position with Obama in January of 2009. For whatever reason, Brewer started off on the wrong foot with Arizona voters. Most in the political chattering class not only believed that Brewer had no shot to win a general election but that she would also have a difficult time surviving a primary. The Daily Kos pollster showed Brewer trailing Terry Goddard by ten in late September of 2009 with a net negative approval rating of -17. Rasmussen also released a poll in late September of 2009 showing Brewer trailing Goddard by seven with a net negative approval rating of -20. Some polls still had her trailing with a net negative approval rating as late as March and April of 2010.
Her situation looked bleak in the GOP primary as well. The Daily Kos pollster showed Brewer trailing by eleven in the primary in late September of 2009. Rasmussen still had her trailing as late as March of 2010.
What happened in reality is that Governor Brewer completely turned around her numbers. She ended up winning over 80% of the vote in the GOP primary. In the general election, Brewer easily defeated a strong Democrat Party opponent by double-digits in a state that David Plouffe claimed had been trending blue. Brewer managed to turn what were some of the worst approval ratings in the country for a sitting governor into an overwhelming victory on election night just in the span of over a year.
Brewer was able to mount such an incredible turnaround because Arizona voters came to identify her with an issue that an overwhelming majority of them care about: stopping illegal immigration. There is no reason to believe that Governor Palin cannot accomplish a similar feat against Barack Obama considering that she is a lot more experienced politically than Governor Brewer. It’s quite possible that Governor Palin will become the person Americans think about when it comes to the need for energy independence, an issue that is flying below-the-radar right now but will likely re-emerge as one of our country’s central challenges in the coming months.
In other words, what Governor Brewer showed is that a politician can turn around his or her poll numbers by arguing fiercely on behalf of the American people. There’s no reason to believe that Governor Palin cannot do what Governor Brewer did in Arizona on a national level.