The GOP's Post-Palin Comedown

By Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast - October 6, 2011

Journalists and ironists, as well as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, are unhappy that Sarah Palin isn’t running. But anyone else? Actually, yes. She does have fans, and millions of them. And Chris Christie, while he may not be a Palin-level celebri-pol, sure had pulses pounding last week at the Reagan library. Palin and Christie are high-wattage personalities. The GOP field right now lacks them. This may or may not make a difference next November, but it will make a lot of difference during the primary season and will probably end up helping Mitt Romney—if Republican voters can learn to love him, which is still a big question.

It’s close to unprecedented in recent history that a party’s two biggest names (Palin is certainly one; Christie is arguable, but I’d say that just because of his swagger and his proximity to the New York media market, he’s up there) don’t run for president. The Democrats faced a similar situation in 1988 and 1992, when Mario Cuomo, probably their brightest light at the time, didn’t get in. In 1988 his decision had a big effect, as Democrats didn’t really know where to go among their choices, finally settling on Michael Dukakis without great enthusiasm. I remember lots of people saying, for a long time, “I still wish Mario had run” (of course, I was in New York then). In 1992 Bill Clinton was eventually able to emit enough star power, once he fought his way through the brambles of Gennifer Flowers and the draft-dodging charges, to make Democrats forget about Cuomo.

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