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Palin is the GOP’s, not Obama’s, worst nightmare

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 11/30/2010, 8:32 a.m.

Palin is the GOP’s, not Obama’s, worst nightmare

Sarah Palin continues to terrorize GOP mainstream leaders. She made Iowa a prime stop on her latest book tour junket. Iowa is the bellwether primary state for every presidential hopeful. Then the man who unleashed her on the national scene, John McCain, sloughed off any talk about her being divisive, and said that she’d be formidable as a presidential candidate.

Palin flatly told Barbara Walters “I believe so” to her question whether she could beat President Barack Obama in a head to head match-up. Palin has ducked and dodged the question of whether she’ll run for president or not. That’s just standard procedure for all presidential hopefuls. But barring a cataclysmic happening, scandal, or fatal verbal stumble, Palin will run, and she’ll run to win.

A Palin presidential bid that GOP leaders once chuckled at is no longer a laughing matter. She is the most polarizing Republican since Lincoln. But McCain also quickly added that GOP icon Ronald Reagan was also called polarizing. McCain’s point was so what, he still went on to greatness. This was yet another tip that in the inner sanctum of GOP political circles, a Palin presidential bid is expected.

The GOP pragmatists who control the money, media spin and party apparatus will do everything they can to maneuver and massage the primaries and convention to ensure that the noise and mischief outsider Palin makes will die before primary season begins. That may not happen.

The media and public obsession with Palin, and the mostly favorable scorecard of wins by her endorsed picks in the GOP primaries, did nothing to stir hope that Palin’s political star will flame out.

Palin mania, though, is less important than the cast of GOP presidential hopeful competitors. They carry nearly as much baggage as she does. The three best known Palin competitors are Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The knock against Gingrich is that he’s too divisive, polarizing and washed up. The knock against Huckabee is that his appeal is limited to religious fundamentalists. The knock against Romney is that he’s too tainted by an embrace of health care reform and not authentically conservative enough.

Palin starts with another advantage that they don’t. Her mug is seen round the clock on Fox, on news shows, on book tours and a reality show. The overexposure this early in the presidential hunt makes it that much easier to raise funds and build the type of grassroots organization she’ll need to be any kind of real threat.

The lesser known GOP hopefuls, governors, ex-governors and senators say that they can do what Obama did and come from relative political obscurity in a relatively short period of time and make a serious run. That won’t wash. Obama was not the political rags to riches story that he was made out to be. He spent four years building support in the party, raising money, writing books and honing a catchy and timely message. This created a groundswell of acclaim, admiration and support for him, and ultimately a million-dollar winning political image for him.