Tony Norman: Palin's an attractive candidate on all levels

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Here's a headline from Breitbart.com that caught my attention and lifted my spirit this week: "Poll: Sarah Palin has the highest favorability rating among GOP primary voters."

Ms. Palin's name was not listed among the likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates in the survey by Public Policy Polling, but an interesting factoid came to light in a separate question when conservative voters went rogue and expressed what was in their hearts to the left-leaning polling house.

"The best liked person we tested on this poll with Republican primary voters is actually Sarah Palin who has a 70/20 favorability rating," according to the poll's summary. "She's followed by [Mike] Huckabee at 64/18, [Paul] Ryan at 58/28, [Rand] Paul at 58/21, [Jeb] Bush at 56/18, [Ted] Cruz at 45/20, and [Chris] Christie at 40/38."

As a liberal, I greet news of Ms. Palin's continued relevance to the GOP's much-maligned grass-roots with the most sincere of Cheshire grins. Unlike House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who made an impassioned plea to the Republicans to "take back" their party, I'm of the opinion it is unpatriotic to tell members of the opposing political persuasion how to vote. There's nothing more condescending than a Democrat giving a Republican advice on how to do better with the American people.

This is an excerpt from what Ms. Pelosi said about the GOP's talent bench a week after former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee's "Uncle Sugar" remarks reminded everyone of the party's perennial problem with women voters:

"This isn't who you are, who you have been, what you have done for America, the 'Grand Old Party.' This is an ideological, over the cliff, extreme element that has captured control of the Republican Party in the House and dominates policy making," said the liberal California congresswoman.

With all due respect to Ms. Pelosi, no Democrat should presume to lecture Republicans about being "too extremist" when GOP extremism was working for Democrats the last time I looked. Imagine if Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll presumed to give the Denver Broncos' John Fox "advice" on how to win the Super Bowl; it wouldn't be taken seriously -- nor should it.

So, if Republicans really want Sarah Palin but would "settle" for the likes of Mr. Huckabee, Sens. Paul or Cruz or Gov. Christie, every good Democrat should concede the Republicans' right to pick the candidate who best epitomizes their values as their 2016 standard bearer. Let's stop the War Against One Woman (Sarah Palin) and get ready for the War Between Women (Sarah Palin vs. Hillary Clinton).

Some might think it equally presumptuous to assume that the former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state will be the Democrats' standard bearer in 2016, given how volatile the left's own base is capable of being.

I would have agreed before seeing this week's Washington Post/ABC News poll reporting that Ms. Clinton is "the biggest front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination ever."

Ms. Clinton held a 61-point edge over Vice President Joe Biden in a hypothetical primary race. By comparison, Vice President Al Gore was viewed back in 1999 to have a whopping lead over other likely Democratic candidates for president in 2000 when he was ahead of his nearest contender by 37 percent.

Washington Post political writers Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan point out that Ms. Clinton's lead is three times the one she enjoyed over then-Sen. Barack Obama in December 2006 polling ahead of the 2008 primary election. Mr. Obama ran a brilliant campaign that garnered him the nomination and eventually the presidency, a point that shouldn't be lost on anyone making predictions this far out from the next election. Nothing is carved in stone.

Still, only a fool would bet against one of the smartest players in American politics as if she weren't capable of learning from that experience. Unless she undergoes a frontal lobotomy, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

A Clinton-Palin matchup would be a dream for the political press unprecedented in the history of the republic. The thirst for both legitimate news and gossip about both candidates would be insatiable. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would make millions reprising their "SNL" roles. Every member of the press would weep with joy at the spectacle of Clinton-Palin debates, which would be the highest-rated in history.

Given the stakes, I hope grass-roots GOP primary voters get their wish -- a Palin candidacy. I bet America could get close to a 100 percent voter turnout for that one.

Tony Norman: tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631. Twitter @TonyNormanPG.


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