10.27.10

Sarah Palin Under Fire

With only days to go before the election, Sarah Palin suddenly battles two fronts: fending off attacks by Karl Rove and fighting for her protégé in Alaska.

During an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Sarah Palin said that in 2012, “if there’s nobody else to do it,” she will run for president. "It's going to entail a discussion with my family [and] a real close look at the lay of the land, to consider whether there are those with that common sense, conservative, pro-Constitution passion, whether there are already candidates out there who can do the job,” Palin explained. If she determines that there are no good candidates ready or willing, “then of course I would believe that we should do this," she said.

But first, with only days to go before the election, Palin suddenly battles two fronts: fending off attacks by Karl Rove and fighting for her protégé in Alaska.

With less than a week to go before the election, conservative king- and queen-maker Sarah Palin suddenly finds herself battling two fronts–fighting for a beleaguered protégé in her home state while, simultaneously, fending off an attack by Karl Rove.

On Wednesday night, news broke that Rove had publicly questioned whether Palin will be a suitable Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The architect of Bush’s two election wins, and a serious GOP force, told the British paper The Daily Telegraph that he isn’t sure Palin possesses the required seriousness for the job.

Although Palin did a “terrific job” as Sen. John McCain’s running mate during the 2008 election, Rove said he wasn’t sure the Alaskan has what it takes for a run at the highest office.

“There are high standards that the American people have for [the presidency] and they require a certain level of gravitas, and they want to look at the candidate and say 'that candidate is doing things that gives me confidence that they are up to the most demanding job in the world,’” Rove told The Telegraph.

“With all due candor, appearing on your own reality show on the Discovery Channel, I am not certain how that fits in the American calculus of ‘that helps me see you in the Oval Office,’” he said. “Being the vice-presidential nominee on the ticket is different from saying ‘I want to be the person at the top of the ticket.’”

This election cycle, few Republicans have been more in demand than Palin, who is scheduled to headline a rally in aid of her beleaguered political protégé, Joe Miller, in the Alaska senate race today. Palin’s husband, Todd, is also scheduled to appear during the “Change D.C.” rally in Anchorage along with other Tea Partiers, including Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, who are scheduled to appear by video link. 

But some observers believe Palin’s appearance might actually end up backfiring for Miller because Palin supporters are already backing Miller and it could inflame the other side.

“The anti-Palin side may be motivated” by her appearance, said Republican pollster and analyst, Dave Dittman, who has done work for both Miller and Murkowski but often speaks favorably of Palin. By appearing for Miller, she may actually motivate his opponents to come out to vote. “She is such a polarizing figure in Alaska,” Dittman said. “It wouldn’t have been my advice to do it.”

After Election Day on Tuesday, pundits will likely tally how many of Palin-endorsed candidates have made the cut across the country, and for Miller to lose in Alaska–Palin’s home state – would be considered a blow.

After Election Day on Tuesday, pundits will likely tally how many of Palin-endorsed candidates have made the cut.

The likelihood of a Miller loss, however, is difficult to assess. A new Hays Research poll has Murkowski and McAdams leading while a recent CNN/Time poll found Murkowski and Miller in dead heat with McAdams trailing. But Alaska is a notoriously difficult place to poll.

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In the last few weeks, though, the Miller campaign has been hit by a series of setbacks, most recently by the revelation this week that he had lied about surreptitiously using computers belonging to coworkers at the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2008 to vote in a poll on his own website to try to oust the state Republican Party chairman, Randy Ruedrich. Miller at first lied about using the computers, before owning up to it this week after the release of employment records.

“I see a sort of tragic irony,” said Murkowski press secretary, Steve Wackowski, pointing out that Palin originally made her political name by getting ethics charges filed against Ruedrich, when he used government computers for political purposes in 2003.

“Joe’s point of view is that it shows he’s human, and he makes mistakes, and that he is one of them,” said Miller aide, Dirk Moffatt. “I’m thankful it was something minor and not something huge.”

Still, the campaign wasn’t that interested in showing Miller’s human side – the campaign at first tried to prevent the records from being released, and the Alaskan press corps had to go to court to get them made public. When asked if it would have been better just to come out with the information in the first place months ago Moffatt answered, “I think that would have been better and Joe has acknowledged that’s what he should have done at the beginning.”

There have been other bumps in what once seemed a smooth road for Palin’s pick: Miller have told reporters he would no longer answer questions about his background or personal life and his security team drew unwanted attention when they handcuffed a local reporter at a rally recently when the reporter tried to question the candidate.

In August, Miller stunned political observers by winning the Republican nomination for the Alaska senate race, besting eight-year incumbent and long-time Palin rival Lisa Murkowski during the primary; he looked set to coast to victory over Democrat Scott McAdams until Murkowski announced she would wage a write-in campaign.

Lately, Democrats have pointed out what they have labeled the McMentum: Scott McAdams’ rise in the polls. In a state where political bombshells have been known to happen, even Republicans agree McAdams might pull off a surprise upset.

“The unthinkable could occur - another Democrat senator from Alaska,” Dittman said.

Shushannah Walshe covers politics for The Daily Beast. She is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.