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September 17, 2010

Ben Smith sees the O’Donnell candidacy for Senate from Delaware as a bellwether for a Sarah Palin presidential run in 2012. His thesis:

O’Donnell’s showing in November, though, will be important to Palin’s prospects and could hurt her as much as this week’s results helped. Indeed, Palin’s now yoked to some degree to O’Donnell’s campaign. If the Delaware conservative somehow wins this, that’s a safe sign that in the right environment, Sarah Palin can be president.

The real question is what would count as a strong showing and what would count as a full-on rejection of the Palin wing. O’Donnell’s biographical problems, after all, are far deeper than those of Palin, who was, after all, governor of a state. And the Republican nominee isn’t supposed to win Delaware. Obama got better than 60 percent¬†there in 2008.

So I’d say that if O’Donnell breaks 40 percent, that’s enough to give encouragement to a Palin bid, and it would take a really substantial wipeout to make a plausibly discouraging case.

That’s interesting.

The French Cowboy fully agrees that O’Donnell has “biographical problems” where Mme Palin has serious achievements. And, personally, I’m still not entirely convinced about Mme O’Donnell’s qualifications — even though, now that she’s won the primary, I certainly want her to win the general election. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is definitely ready to become president. (My hunch is that Americans would rather see a courageous moose eater with common sense and real-life experience in the Oval Office than an arrogant theorist who’s suffering from what appears to be a (subconscious?) hatred for America and who –prior to the presidency — has never run anything except his mouth.)

But it’s true, nevertheless, that many parallels can be drawn between Palin and O’Donnell. Both are being ridiculed by the mainstream media and the (rest of the) Left as airheads with freakishly anti-scientific moral beliefs. About both questions are being raised concerning their electability. And about both it’s being said that the Republican party is divided over them, with fervent supporters on one side and staunch opponents on the other. Both, Palin and O’Donnell have become the centre of media attention rather suddenly, and being young — for politics — women they’re natural targets for sexists and so-called feminists (huge overlap, I know). And finally, when one is mentioned the other often gets mentioned as well, in part because of Palin’s endorsement of O’Donnell.

So it’s very tempting to say that as O’Donnell goes in Delaware, Palin will go in a presidential bid: If O’Donnell does well, Palin might be able to win a presidential; if O’Donnell gets beaten (badly), Palin should pursue an alternative career.

This if-then connection is too strong a simplification, though. There are strong differences between the two women that put a predictive power of the Delaware race into question.

O’Donnell’s biggest problems are that 1) her nomination has turned the Senate seat from a virtually certain R into a toss-up at best, and 2) her history of misstatements concerning her bio. Sarah Palin had none of these issues and won’t have them in a presidential run. Also, the GOP establishment has been strongly opposing O’Donnell, but — for good reason — they show a certain respect to Palin.

Another advantage that Palin has is that she’s already been through the fire. After what has been said and done against her since she had become McCain’s running mate in the ’08 campaign, there’s no spiteful attack left that can be made against her that the public hasn’t already heard and become weary of.

And ultimately, the presidential election is still another 2 years from now. Plenty, plenty of time for Obama to make many, many more mistakes and drive voters into the arms of Sarah Palin, the ultimate Obama antidote.

All in all, the French Cowboy would say that 40% for O’Donnell aren’t needed for Palin as an encouragement. Palin would be a much stronger candidate for president than O’Donnell is now for Senate in Delaware, not just by 10%. For this reason, with all due respect to Mme O’Donnell, I think that the “Palin = O’Donnell” meme that is building up isn’t good for the former governor. But, in all likelihood, Mme Palin knows that warning and doesn’t care. It’s this type of principled stubbornness that leaders are made of.

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