What do Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Linda McMahon, andhave in common?
They’re all Republican candidates for public office whom most observers considered to be major nut cases, and whom respectable Republican voters just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for as a result.
To my mind, it was obvious the momentannounced her that Sarah Palin tanked his presidential candidacy because so many Republicans (including McCain’s own daughter), not to mention those all-important independents, greeted the announcement with horrified hands over their mouths and wondered what to do now that their Party’s standard-bearer had just committed a very public, egregious error in judgment.
The independents just voted for Obama. No telling what the Republicans did. But, if the numbers from the 2010 election in the Nevada Senate race are indication, some significant percentage of them must have voted for Obama. After all, if you’re a good citizen, as many Republicans are, it is extremely difficult not to vote just because your candidate just made a fool of himself. If you’re the libertarian-leaning sort of Republican, you can vote Libertarian, or maybe write in Michael Bloomberg.
Or vote for the Democrat. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that, based just on turn-out statistics, a significant number of Nevada Republicans must have voted for Democratrather than Republican Sharron Angle, and this with support for Angle from Palin and some observers even calling Angle the Palin of Nevada.
Nevada as a whole has 60,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. On election day 2010, however, Democratic turn-out exceeded Republican turn-out by only 2,000 votes (evidence of that much-remarked enthusiasm gap, but also evidence that an enthusiasm gap does not ensure victory for the beneficiary’s candidates). Given that Reid ultimately beat Angle by 41,424 votes, that necessarily means that many Republicans voted for Reid. Reid even beat Angle in Washoe County, which has more registered Republicans than Democrats, and where Republican turn-out exceeded Democratic turn-out.
Christine O’Donnell’s race doesn’t necessarily tell us much because the candidate was such a laughingstock from the start, and the seat was the oneleft open by becoming Vice President, so it had been a Democratic seat for a long time before 2010. Even so, O’Donnell looked like a prime example of Sarah Palin’s supposed political clout, since Palin’s endorsement, and Tea Party money, were the only reasons why she won the Republican primary.
Indeed, O’Donnell’s primary victory precipitated the first volleys in the now on-going battle of words between Sarah Palin and long-time Republican political operative, who publicly lamented the O’Donnell victory as costing the Republicans a Senate seat they had hoped to win, since every sane Republican on the planet (meaning, not Sarah Palin) could tell O’Donnell was going to lose.
Linda McMahon is also not a good test of the Palin Principle, although she was in the running with O’Donnell for wackiest Senate candidate of the decade, if not the century, although it is way too early to tell for that award. Palin designated McMahon one of her “Mama Grizzlies,” but McMahon was unthrilled, recognizing that a Palin endorsement was not much of an asset in New England, where an older tradition of moderate Republicans still obtains, even if few of its avatars continue to serve in Congress. But that same tradition made it highly unlikely that moderate Republicans of Connecticut had any particular interest in electing a professional wrestling mogul as their United States Senator.
Perhaps the best example of the Palin Principle is. What better test of Palin’s political power could one ask for: a candidate who beat an incumbent from a long-time political family with Palin/Tea Party help in Palin’s home state. As we all now know, the incumbent, , pulled off the impossible, winning a U.S. Senate election as a write-in candidate, which functions under the circumstances as a home-state bitch slap to Sarah Palin.
Anyone, including Palin herself, who thinks Palin can win the presidency in 2012 will have to talk very fast to explain away the Palin Principle. If her fellow Republicans, outside of the farthest right-wing corners of the Party, couldn’t stomach her as a candidate for Vice President, what reason do we have to think they’ll suddenly decide to support her as a candidate for President?