WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Regardless of the political affiliation or level of engagement of a person’s community, most people would be hard pressed to find someone unfamiliar with the name Sarah Palin.
A dynamic and polarizing figure who was often the subject of scrutiny and target of political satire, Palin is the former Alaska governor and vice presidential contender that Americans either love or love to hate.
The ambivalence she’s inspired in the nation after numerous gaffes and missteps along the way in 2008 has not lessened much over the past four years since her time in the spotlight.
She has also become a figurehead on the prow of the USS Tea Party, a conservative movement responsible for causing its own political divides throughout the nation and keeping her name in a place of prominence.
But recent activity aside, the fallout from what some have called a disastrous performance during the 2008 election continues to this very day.
Perhaps the most notable and timely example is the repeated appearance of her name in speculations regarding the choice of running mate for official GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney – usually mentioned as a moral, the personification of a lesson to be learned.
The continued factoring of Palin into such conversations leads many to wonder – how do her words and actions affect politics in 2012, four years after her candidacy?
Her influence is not to be negated outright – after all, as Politico pointed out earlier this week, Palin has made several successful endorsements recently, such as Senate hopeful Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Her support has been perceived to be something of a game-changer for candidates on the receiving end of it, and in a positive way.
She also lent support to Rick Santorum, before ultimately dropping out of the race.
And even in the case of less anticipated endorsements, most notably Orinn Hatch in Utah’s GOP Senate Primary race, her opinions have proven worthy of national discussion and news coverage.
Joanne Bamberger, manager of Pundit Mom and an author of the book “Mothers of Intention,” feels that her influence does exist, but will likely stay isolated to a small sect of the American populace.
“I think her positive is her negative – she is still going to appeal to the really committed Tea Party supporters,” she said to CBSDC. “But if you’re talking about the presidential race, Senate races, local races, whatever they are, the Tea Party is an uber-conservative, small minority of people voting.”
She additionally noted that a Palin endorsement smacks somewhat of Karl Rove-ian politics, inherent in the strategy of appealing to niche voters and galvanizing a passionate but ultimately small sect of Americans toward a candidate, rather than appealing to a larger, broader base of constituents.
Barbara Kellerman, a James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership of the Kennedy School at Harvard University, agreed when she spoke with CBSDC.
“She remains attractive, sure – in every sense of the world – appealing to many people ideologically and personally,” she said. “But those people are increasingly very much in the minority, very much among the right wing of the Republican Party.”
Added Kellerman, “Are there people in the United States who pay attention to her? Sure. Is her political clout even within a remote distance to what it was a couple of years ago? The answer is no.”
As for Palin’s influence on the selections of a running mate for Romney, both Kellerman and Bamberger see Romney steering clear of a wild card such as Palin.
“I think the level of consciousness regarding the mistake the McCain campaign made … (will cause) the Romney campaign to make extreme efforts to distance itself from it,” Kellerman said. “They will seek someone politically skilled, serious, somber, adult, mature … someone no one will question as a solid pick for the vice presidential slot, who in the event of a calamity would be fit to be president.”
She added, “There has really been an evolution from 2008, a gradual recognition and nationwide acknowledgement of the reckless pick by the McCain campaign. Few defend it anymore – some may have in 2008 and 2009, even 2010, but not in the last year or two.”
Bamberger envisions a male running mate for Romney, but for different reasons.
“Lots of people are saying that Romney has to pick a woman as a running mate because of the perceived war on women, but if I were a betting woman, I would say that he would steer clear of any women and pick someone he is most comfortable with,” she said. “[Not] because of Palin – he’ll choose the extreme opposite of Palin because that’s who Romney is. He’ll pick someone very much like him, in the mold of George H.W. Bush picking Dan Quayle. Another white guy … with a similar background who is not going to overshadow Romney.”