“In a Republican presidential field where no top-tier candidate offers a flawless resume, the question facing GOP primary voters is whether they can find a diamond in the rough — a standard-bearer who embodies the party’s conservative backbone and can give President Obama a run for his money.
“With former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the nominal front-runner in a wide-open field, set to formally enter the race Thursday, all of the top candidates have significant deviations from Republican orthodoxy on their records, while the second-tier hopefuls have yet to prove they can raise funds and energize base voters enough to threaten Mr. Obama’s re-election hopes…
“‘There is a reason why Republicans are so desperate to find another candidate and begging candidates to get into the race, because the current crop just isn’t cutting it,’ said Mo Elliethee, a Democratic strategist.”
“Asked on her way into the restaurant about Trump’s past political donations, Palin responded, ‘I think I’ll go change his mind and make sure he’s contributing to constitutional conservatives.’
“‘She didn’t ask me [to run with her] but I’ll tell you, she’s a terrific woman,’ Trump said as they walked in. Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen, told reporters that the pair had talked in the past about meeting up whenever Palin found herself in New York…
“The first person who approached Palin outside the restaurant was Diane Barone, a union activist from Youngstown, Ohio in town for IUE-CWA contract negotiations. She shook Palin’s hand and would not let go, telling the former governor she disagreed with her positions on unions. Palin responded calmly that her father had been a union member and that making things better for working people ‘is something on which we can agree.’ She said afterwards that she doubted she could change Palin’s mind, but you never know: ‘I thought she would ignore me and she did not, she shook my hand.'”
“‘This family has been tested,’ Palin said. ‘When people talk about how she was just plucked up out of Wasilla, you have to look at her career. Every step in her career is another step for the family, and we were prepared.
“‘These kids grew up around the mayor of a small town,’ he added. ‘Local politics is in your face every day. It’s not like you get on a plane and fly to D.C. or Juneau.’…
“Palin said there is a list of ‘pros and cons’ that the family is weighing. ‘But this country, we have to get back on the right track,’ he said.”
“The conventional wisdom is that the Republican establishment will rally around whoever it needs to defeat Palin. But that might not be so easy. With Mike Huckabee, John Thune and Haley Barbour all skipping the race, Palin could claim much of the social-conservative vote. Yes, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann play in that space, but they’re chihuahuas. Palin is the big dog. Her support among Christian evangelicals would prove particularly valuable in Iowa, whose low-turnout caucuses reward intensity of support, not breadth. In Iowa, passion can beat organization: In 2008, Huckabee beat Mitt Romney there by nine points. And in Iowa, extremism is no vice: Pat Robertson beat George H.W. Bush there in 1988. It’s the perfect state for her.
“Palin would likely fare more poorly in New Hampshire, which leans towards economic conservatives, and where Independents and Democrats can vote in the GOP primary. And the Republican establishment would rally around the New Hampshire winner. But voters might not oblige. Romney, the early favorite both in New Hampshire and among GOP moneybags, has Hillary Clinton’s problem. In 2008, the thing grassroots Democrats most wanted from their presidential nominee was a thundering denunciation of the Iraq War. Hillary, because she voted to authorize force, couldn’t offer one…
“Goldwater and McGovern were far more substantive than Palin, to be sure. But they won because they inspired passion, because their opponents were weak, and because their party wasn’t in a tactical mood. Could that happen again in 2012? If I were Sarah Palin, I’d want to find out.”