Monday, May 9, 2011

With Sarah Palin and the 2012 GOP Field, Past is Prologue

Long before most Americans had ever heard of Sarah Palin, she was a superstar in Alaska. A hard charging reformer with a reputation for getting things done. Someone who put principle over party and realized her bosses were the people of Alaska.

By now everyone knows her amazing bio. Business owner, successful two term Mayor, Chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Compact Commission, as well as successful and wildly popular Governor of the state. This is where my longtime admiration for Sarah Palin started.

Though a series of articles would follow, my first exposure to Sarah was through Fred Barnes and the Weekly Standard. Sarah had an unreal approval rating, the highest of any Governor in the nation, something that would stay with her until mid-2009: {emphasis mine]

The Most Popular Governor

Alaska's Sarah Palin is the GOP's newest star.


The wipeout in the 2006 election left Republicans in such a state of dejection that they've overlooked the one shining victory in which a Republican star was born. The triumph came in Alaska where Sarah Palin, a politician of eye-popping integrity, was elected governor. She is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.

Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle--especially to transparency and accountability in government--can produce political success. And by the way, Palin is a conservative who only last month vetoed 13 percent of the state's proposed budget for capital projects. The cuts, the Anchorage Daily News said, "may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history."

As recently as last year, Palin (pronounced pale-in) was a political outcast. She resigned in January 2004 as head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after complaining to the office of Governor Frank Murkowski and to state Attorney General Gregg Renkes about ethical violations by another commissioner, Randy Ruedrich, who was also Republican state chairman.

State law barred Palin from speaking out publicly about ethical violations and corruption. But she was vindicated later in 2004 when Ruedrich, who'd been reconfirmed as state chairman, agreed to pay a $12,000 fine for breaking state ethics laws. She became a hero in the eyes of the public and the press, and the bane of Republican leaders.

In 2005, she continued to take on the Republican establishment by joining Eric Croft, a Democrat, in lodging an ethics complaint against Renkes, who was not only attorney general but also a long-time adviser and campaign manager for Murkowski. The governor reprimanded Renkes and said the case was closed. It wasn't. Renkes resigned a few weeks later, and Palin was again hailed as a hero.

Palin, 43, the mother of four, passed up a chance to challenge Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, the then-governor's daughter, in 2004. She endorsed another candidate in the primary, but Murkowski won and was reelected. Palin said then that her 14-year-old son talked her out of running, though it's doubtful that was the sole reason.

In 2006, she didn't hesitate. She ran against Gov. Murkowski, who was seeking a second term despite sagging poll ratings, in the Republican primary. In a three-way race, Palin captured 51 percent and won in a landslide. She defeated former Democratic governor Tony Knowles in the general election, 49 percent to 41 percent. She was one of the few Republicans anywhere in the country to perform above expectations in 2006, an overwhelmingly Democratic year. Palin is unabashedly pro life.

With her emphasis on ethics and openness in government, "it turned out Palin caught the temper of the times perfectly," wrote Tom Kizzia of the Anchorage Daily News. She was also lucky. News broke of an FBI investigation of corruption by legislators between the primary and general elections. So far, three legislators have been indicted.

In the roughly three years since she quit as the state's chief regulator of the oil industry, Palin has crushed the Republican hierarchy (virtually all male) and nearly every other foe or critic. Political analysts in Alaska refer to the "body count" of Palin's rivals. "The landscape is littered with the bodies of those who crossed Sarah," says pollster Dave Dittman, who worked for her gubernatorial campaign. It includes Ruedrich, Renkes, Murkowski, gubernatorial contenders John Binkley and Andrew Halcro, the three big oil companies in Alaska, and a section of the Daily News called "Voice of the Times," which was highly critical of Palin and is now defunct.

One of her first acts as governor was to fire the Alaska Board of Agriculture. Her ultimate target was the state Creamery Board, which has been marketing the products of Alaska dairy farmers for 71 years and wanted to close down after receiving $600,000 from the state. "You don't just close your doors and walk away," Palin told me. She discovered she lacked the power to fire the Creamery Board. Only the board of agriculture had that authority. So Palin replaced the agriculture board, which appointed a new creamery board, which has rescinded the plan to shut down.

In preserving support for dairy farmers, Palin exhibited a kind of Alaskan chauvinism. She came to the state as an infant, making her practically a native. And she is eager to keep Alaska free from domination by oil companies or from reliance on cruise lines whose ships bring thousands of tourists to the state.

"She's as Alaskan as you can get," says Dan Fagan, an Anchorage radio talk show host. "She's a hockey mom, she lives on a lake, she ice fishes, she snowmobiles, she hunts, she's an NRA member, she has a float plane, and her husband works for BP on the North Slope," Fagan says. Todd Palin, her high school sweetheart, is a three-time winner of the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race from Wasilla to Nome to Fairbanks. It's the world's longest snowmobile race.

Gov. Palin grew up in Wasilla, where as star of her high school basketball team she got the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" for her fierce competitiveness. She led her underdog team to the state basketball championship. Palin also won the Miss Wasilla beauty contest, in which she was named Miss Congeniality, and went on to compete in the Miss Alaska pageant.

At 32, she was elected mayor of Wasilla, a burgeoning bedroom community outside Anchorage. Though Alaskans tend to be ferociously anti-tax, she persuaded Wasilla voters to increase the local sales tax to pay for an indoor arena and convention center. The tax referendum won by 20 votes.

In 2002, Palin entered statewide politics, running for lieutenant governor. She finished a strong second in the Republican primary. That fall, she dutifully campaigned for Murkowski, who'd given up his Senate seat to run for governor. Afterwards, she turned down several job offers from Murkowski, finally accepting the oil and gas post. When she quit 11 months later, "that was her defining moment" in politics, says Fagan.

[ .... ]

Her Christian faith--Palin grew up attending nondenominational Bible churches--was a minor issue in the race. She told me her faith affects her politics this way: "I believe everything happens for a purpose. In my own personal life, if I dedicated back to my Creator what I'm trying to create for the good . . . everything will turn out fine." That same concept applies to her political career, she suggested.

The biggest issue in the campaign was the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope that's crucial to the state's economy. Murkowski had made a deal with the three big oil companies--Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips--which own the gas reserves to build the pipeline. But the legislature turned it down and Palin promised to create competition for the pipeline contract.

She made three other promises: to end corruption in state government, cut spending, and provide accountability. She's now redeeming those promises.

Palin describes herself as "pro-business and pro-development." She doesn't want the oil companies to sit on their energy reserves or environmental groups to block development of the state's resources. "I get frustrated with folks from outside Alaska who come up and say you shouldn't develop your resources," she says. Alaska needs to be self-sufficient, she says, instead of relying heavily on "federal dollars," as the state does today.

Her first major achievement as governor was lopsided passage by the legislature of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which is designed to attract pipeline proposals this summer. The state is offering $500 million in incentives, but the developer must meet strict requirements. The oil companies have said they won't join the competition.

Palin's tough spending cuts drew criticism from Republican legislators whose pet projects were vetoed. But her popularity doesn't appear threatened. "It's not just that she's pretty and young," says Dittman. "She's really smart. And there's no guile. She says her favorite meal is moose stew or mooseburgers. It wouldn't shock people if that were true."
This was typical of the sort of thing one would read about Sarah Palin up until the day John McCain announced that she was going to be his running mate, and the democrat media complex released the hounds of hell on her and her family.

We she perfect? No. Did she have her detractors? YES! That said, she had proven throughout her career that she was a real deal, Conservative.

A competent leader who knows how to run a government and run it well, all the while remembering that she worked for the Alaskan people. As one looks back, most of her detractors weren't always acting on principle, instead they were angry that their pet spending projects had been killed off, or they had a buddy rotting in prison over one of the many scandals that Sarah and others would uncover. When she took office, Alaska was giving Chicago a run for the money in the corruption business.

Maybe this is why I am such a strong, unwavering supporter of Sarah Palin. I learned of her through a relatively unbiased lens. Much as it is today, Sarah was just as much of a threat to the Republican establishment, as she was the democrats, and well, since she was hammering the Republicans at every level, the media was content to leave her alone and let her rip. My how times have changed!

This brings us to an interesting bit of analysis from Brices Crossroads at Free Republic. Here B.C. takes a look at the prospective 2012 GOP candidates through the lens of 2006, and how they fared: [emphasis mine]

I have observed that the polls and the news readers have taken to reminding us that Sarah Palin's nomination spells certain defeat for the GOP in 2012. Let's examine the question of Sarah Palin's prowess as a candidate, measured against the current field:

It has been noted that former Senator Rick Santorum won his Senate seat in a big GOP year (1994) and lost it big in a Democrat year (2006), sweeping in with one tide and out with another. This is evidence of weakness as a candidate. Let's examine the rest of this field, using 2006 as the barometer.

Tim Pawlenty won reelection in 2006 by the skin of his teeth, less that one half of one per cent. He is no political power house if, as an incumbent with no scandal, he can BARELY hold his seat against a no name Democrat challenger. Had it not been for the Green Party siphoning off Democrat votes, Pawlenty would have lost.

Huckabee, who was Lieutenant Governor, backed into the Governor's Mansion in 1996 when the previous governor went to jail. He managed to hold it through the salad years of Clinton's impeachment and Bush's early ascendancy, but the polls In Arkansas showed him losing badly in the big Democrat year of 2006, so he tucked tail and took his traveling medicine show out West to run for President.

Mitt Romney similarly saw his poll numbers so low that his defeat for reelection in 2006 was all but certain. Rather than face certain defeat and the end of his Presidential ambitions, Romney followed the same path as Huckabee.

So which candidate successfully swam AGAINST the tide of a big Democrat year in 2006 and registered two huge victories? SARAH PALIN. First, she dispatched Governor and three time U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski in the GOP primary by 51-19%. Then she entered the general election campaign. Unlike Pawlenty, who was aided by a challenge from the fringe left, Sarah Palin faced a third Party Challenge by a former GOPer, Andrew Halcro, who self financed a campaign against her and drew nearly 10% of the vote. Facing these adversities, and alone among the rising stars of the GOP, Sarah Palin swam hard against the big Democrat tsunami of 2006. She easily defeated popular two term former Governor Tony Knowles by 8% (the polls near election day said it was a dead heat). That, my friends, is empirical evidence of electoral prowess.

So when the Lamesteam media is telling us who is and who is not electable, based upon their early (and "cooked") polls let's follow the wise counsel of former Governor and 1928 Presidential Candidate Al Smith: "Let's look at the record." And, more to the point, let's force the media to look at the record.

If we do that, they will be forced to acknowledge that it is Sarah Palin--based not only on her great successes of 2010, but also on her tremendous "swim against the tide" in 2006-- who is by far the most formidable candidate the GOP could field in 2012.

These are strong points. Besides their records that align them more with democrats than Republicans, Huckabee and Romney were facing certain defeat, and Pawlenty barely hung on in 2006. All three were for things like amnesty, cap and tax, universal health care, and so on. Romney is the father of socialized medicine in America, and even that long wished for socialist utopian dream on his resume wasn't enough to help him hang on.

Santorum's problems came from his embrace of RINOs like Arlen Specter, which depressed GOP turnout, along with his weird brand of social conservatism, that energized the left to take him down.

People point to Alaska and say, well, it's a Republican state, but that just isn't so. It's had 11 governors, and it's a pretty even mix of Republicans, democrats, and even an independent. The state has two U.S. Senators, both of whom are democrats. Yes, I know "Daddy's Girl" ran as an "independent" last go-round and caususes with Republicans, but seriously, she's a democrat in all but name.

And that's the real problem with 90 percent of the 2012 Republican hopefuls. They are, at best, democrat light. And when given the choice between voting for democrat light and the real deal, voters almost always prefer to just go ahead and vote for the democrat, no matter how dire the consequences.

Let's face it, Bush 41 was elected in 1988 because he was Reagan's VP, and little more. He turned out to be a democrat light and got beat by a left wing democrat. Bob Dole, one of the most honorable men to ever serve in the Senate, in my opinion, was also a "moderate" and got beat by Clinton. George W Bush turned out to have a whole lot of "progressive" in him as well, but at the time he was considered a Conservative.

I think most of us feel Barack Obama is very beatable, and he is, but he can also pull this out if we aren't very careful who we choose.

You put one of the progressive Republicans above, or others like Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, Jon Huntsman, or whoever else the establishment will throw out there, and Obama might just pull it out.

Of course, looking at all of these cat's records, even if we win, what will we have won? All of them have proven they will fall right in line with the radical left on many issues. You can bet amnesty for illegals, cap and tax, and no repeal of ObamaCare, as well as increasing debt, will all be on the table.

What American voters seem to be horrible at, is research. Not all voters, of course, but enough voters to make it a problem. Instead of reading the latest headline, voters need to really look into the records of all of these prospective nominees. The results of even a cursory glance would be enough to make you fear for the nation's future.

We've been following Sarah Palin since 2007, and feel we know her record inside out, and have no problem stating that no one is more qualified to be President during these turbulent times, and no one has a better record of navigating the rough waters of governmental disasters, than Sarah Palin.

If the past tells us anything, Sarah Palin is the one leader who can take on all comers and prevail.

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