Articles and Analysis


Why Hillary Clinton should be Sarah Palin's role model

Topics: Favorable Ratings , Hillary Clinton , Sarah Palin

Is Sarah Palin too polarizing to be elected president? This has become a central question in political commentary on the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee. What people often fail to recognize, however, is that the debate over Palin's electability mirrors the debate over Hillary Clinton's electability during the 2006-2008 period.

Clinton may have a very different personal background from Palin, but both women share a common characteristic -- they have sharply polarizing public profiles. However, as this plot of Gallup data illustrates, they managed their image very differently during the pre-campaign period:


Between 2001 and 2006, Clinton largely kept her head down and worked hard as a senator, building relationships with her Republican colleagues and avoiding high-profile controversies. As a result, much of the anti-Hillary sentiment that had built up during the 1990s remained latent, allowing her to cultivate elite support for a campaign that came extremely close to securing the Democratic nomination.

By contrast, Palin's repeated engagement in high-profile media controversies has reduced her public support from the low levels she had reached by the end of the 2008 campaign (when she may have hurt John McCain significantly). Even before she comes under fire from other Republicans (as she eventually will if she runs), more of the public has an unfavorable impression of her than has a favorable one.

All is not lost for Palin, however. Though Clinton started 2007 as a less polarizing figure than Palin, the public quickly reverted to being sharply divided about her as she began to campaign actively for the Democratic nomination. Assuming Palin's remaining supporters will stick by her, she may end up with a similar profile in April 2011 as Hillary had in April 2007. In that case, a successful nomination campaign is plausible (and even a general election victory if the economy is in bad enough shape). However, her failure to improve her image during this pre-primary period may cost her the elite support she would need to win the GOP nomination.

Update 7/27 12:34 PM: It's of course possible that Palin isn't going to run for preisdent, which would certainly help explain her decision to do things like filming a reality TV episode with Kate Gosselin rather than developing her policy resume.

[Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com]



"the public quickly reverted to being sharply divided about her as she began to campaign actively for the Democratic nomination. "

It didn't disappear, it just calmed down.

The right wing was constantly disparaging anything she did as senator as a nefarious plan to make herself look more palatable for her future election.

There was a strong "anybody-but-Hillary" contingent within the democratic party (and definitely within the general population). That sentiment just so happened to coalesce around Barack Obama. But I think that whoever was the last man standing would have received the lion's share of that support. Richardson and Edwards had significant support and almost all of it went to Obama when they dropped out as well the smaller number of supporters the minor candidates had. Richardson's 2nd choice people may have well been what swung Iowa for Obama.

In any case, people had already made up their mind about Hillary. I think she would have had a much more difficult run at the white house than Obama, but maybe still would have won had McCain made the same mistakes. However, McCain would have had an easier time making a case against her and probably never would have chosen Palin.

The same kind of sentiment surrounds Sarah Palin. She is just as likely to inflame opponents as she is to garner supporters, even though she is very good at the latter. She would insure that democratic turnout would be robust which would probably negate any turnout advantage she brought to the table.

But I see her with the clearest path to the R nomination especially with the primary schedule as it is. She is generally 2nd or 3rd behind Romney, Gingrich, or Huckabee. Any support Huckabee is getting would probably go to her. They are generally splitting the Christian wing. Romney isn't getting much beyond the business/moderate wing. Everyone knows he's a phony. The question would be where would Gingrich's support go? I suspect it would split in Palin's favor.

We also have to remember that these races are about fundraising, which is why I dismiss people like Pawlenty, etc... Palin, Romney, and Gingrich are the only ones who could hang, and Palin would have the advantage against Gingrich 1-on-1. Romney probably has the advantage financially but I just think Palin has the edge wrt the schedule.


Florida would be where Romney would have to make a stand, and given that the GOP there is favorable towards Rubio I doubt he would do well.



Yes, but you are forgetting somethig:Hillary used her brain.
When people actually see her campaign and respond to the issues, both in her first Senate race and in her campaign for President, people could see that she was hard working, informed, and cared about people.
Sarah Palin does not believe in hard work, blames the media for the critcism she gets for her inability to answer tough question like : What do you read?
If anyone had a right to complain about the media treatment of her, it is Hillary Clinton.
She kept her head up, kept fighting back and now has very high favorables.
Sarah Palin does not have any of these qualities. Not that it matters to her supporters, they don't care about brains or hard work.



There is no valid comparison here at all. Palin wasn't attacked because she was a woman or because of her political viewpoint or anything else like that. She was attacked because she is a conservative republican. End of story.

As long as we have a super-liberal hate-filled biased media meeting at online sites plotting how to slander and smear conservatives it doesn't matter what Palin or any other conservative woman candidate says or does. They hate her and they will attack her. Look at what the media is doing with Angle in Nevada. They hate her as much as they hate Palin because she resonates with the average american and the elitist liberals can't allow that to happen.



so called "real american"

Palin is disliked because she is uninformed, to put it charitably. She quit halfway through her only big office.
There are many Republican women who would have been better choices than her. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, for example.
You seem to be saying that conservative women all show themselves to be as ill informed as she is.
She can't speak appropriate english, never takes responsibilty for what she does, and can't be bothered to be interviewed by anyone other than Fox News.
Hillary took on all comers, and is not afraid of anything or anyone!
If elitism is being educated, then we should have elites in office. Bush should have proven to you that people who are ignorant do not make good Presidents. If you haven't figured that out then you cannot be helped>



This is kind of a stupid article, because Palin doesn't even have 1/10 of a brain that Hillary Clinton has, so she will probably be a more successful fool if she keeps doing what she is doing, and embarrassing the hell of everyone.



Well Nyhan, are you going to tell Obama not to run because he is even more polarizing than Palin?



Hillary became less polarizing when it became clear she would not get the nomination. Then and only then did she start winning the hypothetical matchups with McCain. She does well now because very little attention is focused on her. What coverage she does get focuses on her competence and intelligence, not her politics, ambition, personality, or problems with the truth.

People who aren't in the spotlight are not polarizing. But Hillary's obvious diligence and competence have helped improve perceptions. She's proven that she's not the wicked witch with the cackle like she was portrayed.

Problem is that you need the spotlight to run for president. Palin has tried to manage it (Alaska gets no spotlights), but that comes with risks and rewards. Alan is right, she has done little to improve the negative perceptions about her, most notably her command of the issues and lack of intellectual curiosity.

I have no doubt Sarah and Hillary share a similar intelligence level, but the stark difference comes from Palin's lack of desire to learn anything she doesn't already know.



Aaron in Texas

Exit polls on the general election had Hillary Beating McCain by 11 ponts.
Obama would have won by more, but received 10% of the white vote in Alabama and 11% in Mississippi, etc. Put two and two together.
I have no doubt that Hillary would have creamed McCain.
In debating McCain face to face, her superior grasp of issues would have shown.




"Palin wasn't attacked because ... of her political viewpoint or anything else like that."

"She was attacked because she is a conservative republican ."




Nyhan's post is wrong in this respect: it overlooks the difference between (1) what helps you get nominated, and (2) what helps you get elected in November.

Less polarizing is, as Hillary Clinton learned the hard way, great for (2)- not so good for (1). So if Palin is too successful at planning for (2) she may similarly fail at (1).


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