Commenting on the idea of General David Petraeus as the only potential presidential candidate who could unite the Republican party, Allahpundit says:

Among the major Republican candidates, the only one who truly excites the base is Palin, yet she’s sufficiently poisonous to moderates at the moment that Bob McDonnell won’t even take her up on her offer to campaign for him in Virginia while sitting on a nine-point lead. 

I’m sure Petraeus would receive an eager and respectful hearing from both Republican and independent voters, if he decided to pursue a career in politics. (Democrats would haul those disgraceful “General Betray Us” signs out of storage, and begin inventing imaginary racist quotes they could post online, citing each other as reliable sources.) I find the classification of Palin as “poisonous to moderates” debatable, however.

Allahpundit didn’t pull this description out of thin air – various polls show her doing much better among conservatives than moderates, and of course liberals hate her the way that creepy little kid and long-haired girl in “The Grudge” hated anyone who came into their haunted house. A recent Pew Research poll gives Palin a 62% approval rating among moderate Republicans, which is a little north of poisonous, but far below her 85% rating with conservatives.

Opinions among the broader electorate are harder to judge, especially when we’re less than a year into the current president’s term… and discussing a private citizen, who last expressed her feelings about elective politics by starting a Facebook page, and racking up 925,000 supporters. She has some work to do with independent and moderately liberal voters, but there’s no reason to declare her task impossible in advance. Note that Allahpundit astutely qualifies his toxicology report by saying she’s “poisonous to moderates at the moment.” Things change in the world of politics, sometimes very abruptly.

Why should Palin be such a hard sell for moderate voters? After all, she was tapped as a running mate by the most moderate moderate to ever moderate his way to a crushing electoral defeat, John McCain. She’s clearly much more conservative than he is, but are we supposed to believe the people who adore McCain’s maverick centrism will completely disregard his… shall we say… moderate endorsement of Palin, and treat her like a radioactive wolverine? What did she ever say, or do, to send these enlightened, open-minded moderates stampeding for the hills? Her style isn’t “divisive” or confrontational, unless we are meant to conclude that strong criticism of the radical Barack Obama automatically infuriates middle-of-the-road types… in which case they seem more like a herd of sheep than a wise company of level-headed independents. All of the superficial reasons cited for Palin’s alleged inability to connect with moderate voters are exactly the kind of trivia they’re supposedly able to think beyond.

When we speak of moderates, there are really three distinct groups under discussion: liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats, and true independents. The truly independent voter should, I think, be strongly disposed to reject an incumbent for poor performance. Someone who could vote for Bush in 2004, then Obama in 2008, should be extraordinarily eager to hear new ideas, when the current occupant of the Oval Office clearly isn’t taking care of business. Conservative Democrats should be less than eager to re-elect a leftist radical, especially since he seems keen on turning the Reagan Democrat states into economic disaster areas.

Liberal Republicans would actually be the hardest of the three moderate groups for a serious conservative to win over, given their long-standing distaste for the right wing of their own party, but they might be willing to jump onto a campaign headed for victory. They were certainly quick to bail out of the Straight Talk Express, despite their ostensible love for John McCain. If Sarah Palin ran against Obama and looked like a winner in the last months of the campaign, she shouldn’t be surprised to see some fawning op-eds from people like Peggy Noonan, as they suddenly discover a luminous aura of energy and charisma around her. That’s what courtiers do. “Moderation” can dissolve in the frantic scramble for relevance. Anyone who could swoon over the “superior judgment” of the guy who filled his administration with tax cheats, 9/11 conspiracy morons, and NAMBLA supporters will have no trouble revising their opinion of the “seemingly very nice middle-class girl,” if she’s up six points over Obama in the October 2012 polls.

How does Sarah Palin improve her standing among moderates? By talking to them. A true moderate can hardly define themselves through stubborn closed-mindedness. Palin’s book sales suggest people are interested in hearing what she has to say. Her writing and speeches show that she’s gotten better at saying it. Of course, not having to shamble along with the zombies of the McCain campaign helps with that. Everything I’ve seen of Palin since the end of the 2008 campaign is remarkably consistent with the performance that brought the house down at the Republican National Convention. That speech was intoxicating, not poisonous.

People sincerely interested in hearing both sides of the political argument aren’t going to judge Palin by a comedy skit, or Katie Couric interview, from four years ago. It doesn’t mean they’ll stack copies of Going Rogue into a giant pyramid, like Xerxes’ seat from 300, and carry her into Washington on their backs… but at this point, it’s equally ridiculous to say that she doesn’t have a fighting chance with them, if she wants to take it. There certainly isn’t anything “moderate” about the man she would be running against.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to
To see the comments on the original post, look here.