John McCain’s former campaign manager has advice for Sarah Palin that could lead to the Republican nomination in 2012.
John McCain's former campaign manager Terry Nelson says that if Sarah Palin plans to run for president, she should follow Barack Obama's example and seize on her momentum. Nelson suggests she take a shot at the presidency in 2012.
"Republicans are very interested in her, and some very excited by her," Nelson told The Daily Beast. "I'd say strike when the iron is hot."
Nelson, who was the political director of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004, served as McCain's campaign manager until he was forced to resign in a staff shakeup last summer. While he says he is not (yet) plotting Palin's ascension, he can see a clear path for her to take the Republican nomination in 2012.
"Republicans are very interested in her, and some very excited by her," Nelson says. "I'd say strike when the iron is hot."
Nelson says he would advise Palin to remain as Alaska’s governor while crafting a national profile. She could set up a political action committee or a foundation to champion causes she cares about, like autism and oil drilling. She could also appear on high profile, intelligent talk shows and speaking events, avoiding cable news slots where she might be reduced to a talking head. The goal, Nelson says, is to establish a national image separate from the identity that McCain's handlers crafted for her during the election.
"Any vice presidential candidate is really a creature of the presidential campaign," Nelson explains. Since Americans were introduced to Palin through McCain's lens, she was "not really in a position for an independent identity, like Joe Biden had or Dick Cheney had."
Nelson declined to criticize his former boss's campaign, saying McCain's team made the best decisions they could "given the situation they thought they were in." But in retrospect, he says, McCain's bid was weakened by frequent message shifting as well as a general environment that focused on the economy instead of national security.
"McCain had a difficult time projecting a consistent and compelling vision to voters," Nelson said. "When a party is in this position, oftentimes it's up to the presidential candidate to provide the agenda, but I'm just not sure that John McCain was in a position to provide it."
Nelson says the GOP must reach out to the center to embrace suburban, upper income voters who desire a more nuanced political debate. "We as a party need to find a way to better communicate with those types of voters about what we believe," Nelson said. "I don't think believing that means Sarah Palin couldn't be effective, or that she couldn't speak to that. In this campaign, that demand has not been put on her, so we don't know if she can."
Before joining the Daily Beast, Ross Goldberg worked as a staff reporter on the New York Sun's city desk, where he covered courts as well as general assignments. In college, he served as managing editor of the Yale Daily News.