From Exuberance to Skepticism

A quiet scattering of Republicans have begun to express concern about the ability of the party “messiah”, Sarah Palin, to counter the one major sticking criticism - her lack of knowledge of policy issues or at least the ability to articulate them effectively when the spotlight is on. Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has publicly said Palin should step aside. National Review editor Kathryn Jean Lopez last friday, while not going as far as Kathleen, did express sympathy to the idea and said in response to Palin, “something’s gotta change.”

Palin rose to fame almost instantly with followers knowing little to nothing about her but still treating her as the next Ronald Reagan. She was - and still to some extent is - seen as a woman who could reforge the old alliances and bring in new allies at the same time, something no politician has accomplished in recent years no matter how hard they tried or how much money they spent (cough - Romney). Everyone from libertarian anarchists to king neoconservatives to feminists liberals has on some level spoken highly of her nomination. When the surprise selection became known to the mass media they immediately went on the offensive, not necessarily because they disliked who she is and what she stands for (though many pundits adamently do), but mainly because they were not given a chance to give a traditional “vetting” to her as a potential candidate, thus reducing their power and influence in the race immensely. The attacks backfired. Americans, except those that were inclined to judge based on ideological alignment, did not believe what was being said about Palin.

Fast forward 3 weeks and the dynamics are fairly similar to where they were around the time of the convention, only the ethusisasm (and hatred) have subsided to an extent. The media is still upset because they do not get a substantial level of access to the candidate that provides their networks with above average ratings. The reason they do not get access is obvious; she is not ready to be let off the leash and give non-teleprompted interviews. The campaign has been “forced” to allow her to give a handful of interviews, the latest with Katie Couric, of which have been seen as decent at best, failures at worse. It is almost as if they campaign is specifically using her few significant appearances to dumb down pre-debate expectations, as opposed to having Palin knock the interview out of the park.

It is this sub-par performance that is making conservatives feel, even if only slightly, less enthusiastic about their Vice Presidential Candidate and her ability to lead the Republican Party and the conservative “real America” movement over the next 4 to 10 years. Conservatives will by no means abandon Sarah in November, but with McCain being closer to 80 than 70 by the next election, many questions and skepticisms remain. For now the principle of wing walking is probably the best way to assess the conservative relationship with Palin - you stick with what you got until you have something better to hold on to.

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