Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What Is The Strategy?

By Marc Korman.

I usually do not write about national politics unless there is a Maryland tie in, but since Adam posted Sarah Palin’s resignation speech and I am so confused by her strategy, I could not resist.

If the plan is to run for president in 2012, declining to run for reelection certainly has precedence. Mitt Romney chose to stand down in 2006 despite having only served one term as governor of Massachusetts partly because he knew a reelection campaign would require him to take positions far to the left of the 2008 Republican primary electorate and could easily end in defeat (think Bob Ehrlich).

Even resigning from a position to run is not new. Bob Dole left his Majority Leadership position and the Senate in the summer of 1996 to focus on his bid for the presidency. Of course, by that point he was already guaranteed the Republican nomination.

But resigning before her first gubernatorial term is complete to focus on an election three years away is an interesting strategy. The best explanation I have heard is she wants to make some money in the private sector, which she can do through book deals, speeches, and slots on corporate boards much easier outside of the governor’s office. She can combine that and campaigning between now and the midterms in November 2010 and then switch over to a full campaign effort leading up to the 2012 election.

Perhaps Palin has also looked at some of her potential competitors and found that being in office is not so important. Mitt Romney will have been out of office for over five years by the time the 2012 Republican primary season heats up. Newt Gingrich resigned from the House of Representatives shortly after he won reelection in 1998, giving up his role as Speaker in the process. Perhaps Palin plans to use him as a shield.

But political strategy aside, Palin’s decision and her comments are just plain strange. One particular section jumped out at me:

And so as I thought about this announcement that I wouldn't run for re-election and what it means for Alaska, I thought about how much fun some governors have as lame ducks... travel around the state, to the Lower 48 (maybe), overseas on international trade - as so many politicians do. And then I thought - that's what's wrong - many just accept that lame duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck, and "milk it". I'm not putting Alaska through that - I promised efficiencies and effectiveness! ? [sic] That's not how I am wired. I am not wired to operate under the same old "politics as usual." I promised that four years ago - and I meant it.
As best as I can tell, Palin is essentially saying that governing is about elections. If she is not going to run, she cannot govern. I suppose the good news is if she were to win two White House terms, she would step aside in January of 2017 since as a lame duck she would have no purpose.

Maybe more to the story will come out. There could be a scandal. Perhaps she is planning to challenge Lisa Murkowski for the US Senate or Michael Steele for the RNC Chairmanship. Maybe she has plans for a think tank. But whatever her plan, resigning before her term is complete strikes me as strange. There may be no single action that disqualifies someone from the presidency, but turning your back on those you represent is probably pretty close.