To win a national election, a politician needs to appeal to voters beyond her base and offer more than paeans to family and the military. Couldn’t Palin grow her support? She’s limited there, too. Since she’s no longer a governor, she’s traded away her ability to attract non-base voters by pointing to accomplishments. This is why it was so hard for Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi to answer when asked if she was qualified to be president. One of the smoothest talkers in politics, he said he didn’t know anything that “disqualified” her from office.
Barack Obama didn’t have a lot of bread-and-butter accomplishments to point to, either. He had, in fact, less governing experience than Palin already has. So experience can be gotten around. But to win the middle-class and suburban independent voters who were attracted by Barack Obama’s promise to change the partisan ways of Washington would presumably require a softer tone. Palin shows no sign of going that route. Her most recent remarks about health care rationing may appeal to her base, but they’re full of the jargon of talk radio. It gets people heated up, sure, but it’s not the kind of language that national candidates usually use in order to court swing voters.