Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Fundamentals of Presidential Politics

Running for president is hard, particularly in America. You have to organize, ideally, more than half of a geographically large and culturally diverse country to vote for you. (If you're lucky enough to find yourself in a three-way race, a plurality will do.) Because of these facts, presidential politics requires quite a bit of organizing skills. Jonathan Bernstein has been writing quite awhile about these facts, and uses a short hand "The Rules" of presidential politics to describe them. Lately, Jonathan (and others) have been pointing out how Sarah Palin refuses to follow them.

This bit in the Politico really bolsters the point quite well, and really drives home the fact that politics goes much farther beyond simple opinion polls, national favorability ratings and 'profile'. Candidates have to actually work hard and sell their candidacy. Examples litter the article:
The lack of a heads-up has irked many GOP leaders in the states Palin plans to visit.

“I have had no contact. I question the value of the ‘theater’ by some candidates,” Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason told POLITICO. “We seldom hear from presidential candidates as they are all focused on the early primary states. They will need us some day and we will remember those who helped us with party building.”

Gleason pointed out that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently helped raise funds for the Allegheny County GOP. He also said former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has been active in the state.

Gleason’s comments were echoed by Republican strategist Karl Rove, who spoke to Palin’s “rather unconventional style” earlier Monday on Fox News

“I bet you a dime to a dollar her visits to those areas are not proceeded by courtesy phone calls to the local Republican Party chairman and request they generate volunteers,” Rove said. “She will announce her schedule and show up.” (Bold mine - JG)

Joshua Green wrote a fantastic piece about Palin and her political development in Alaska. In the piece, I got the sense that a lot of Palin's electoral support in her gubernatorial run was largely generated by a resentment against the Murkowski's, and that Palin's election was more an artifact of Frank Murkowski's unpopularity than her ability to organize voters.

Now, I am not saying that Palin cannot organize voters, but she does seem unable (or unwilling?) to network with party or non-party organisations with the goal of consolidating electoral support. Without that skill, she's never going to gain traction in national politics beyond the core base of supports that identify with her purely on cultural and socio-economic terms.

I'm curious if the way Palin was instantly thrust onto the national stage hindered her ability to develop the basic national organizing skills a presidential run required. Or maybe Palin has these skills, but lacks any interest to develop them further.

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