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Sarah Palin for Senate? Don't Bet on It

Sarah Palin for Senate? Don't Bet on It

By Scott Conroy - July 11, 2013

At first glance, there is some logic to the idea that Sarah Palin might run for Senate in 2014, as she hinted Tuesday is a possibility.

Mark Begich, Alaska’s first-term Democratic senator, is among the GOP's top targets in next year's midterm elections, and no Republican in the nation -- let alone in Alaska -- could bring to the race the kind of star power Palin possesses.

After four years out of elected office, the former governor of the 49th state may be feeling the political itch once again. In addition, she’d have at her disposal a small army of loyal small donors who would contribute to her effort, even if the Republican campaign committees remained squeamish about her return to the arena.

And though she has no affinity for Washington, Palin once was on the shortlist for a Senate appointment that she likely would have accepted had it been offered, so the idea of becoming a senator is one she has contemplated before. Palin also enjoys being in the thick of the political fray, and the notion of becoming a major force in the nation’s capital must have some appeal for a woman who has never lacked self-confidence.

Since April, a Tea Party-affiliated group has been soliciting donations for a draft campaign intended to convince Palin to challenge Begich, and the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee said on Sean Hannity’s radio show this week that she has “considered” the proposal.

But before her supporters start scooping up “Palin for Senate” bumper stickers, it’s worth noting the many reasons this idea is far-fetched.

For starters, the Fox News commentator did not appear on Hannity’s show to announce that she is mulling a run; she merely responded to the conservative host’s question gauging her interest. As Palin demonstrated throughout her lengthy and highly public 2011 deliberation over whether to run for president, she is adept at fueling speculation and loath to close the door on any possibility that she is not otherwise compelled to discount. If Hannity had asked her if she would ever contemplate running for president in 2016, or for governor in 2014, or perhaps even returning to her old office at Wasilla City Hall, the answer might have been the same: She’d consider it.

The fact is that neither Palin nor any of the aides who run her political action committee have indicated she’s taken any of the steps required to explore a Senate bid. She recently re-signed a contract as an on-air analyst for Fox News after parting ways with the cable channel in January -- an indication that she missed playing the role of pundit and ideological watchdog on national television.

If she were to seek and win a seat in Washington, Palin no doubt would attract outsized attention as the nation’s highest profile freshman senator. But she would be just one of 100 politicians languishing in an institution that functions on staid formality and lengthy deliberation -- traits that are antithetical to her political brand and modus operandi.

Since stepping down as governor in 2009, Palin has been a key player in Republican primary fights, where her endorsement has often been a factor in the election fates of candidates across the country.

Her relevance in general elections, however, has waned significantly.

Alaskans, in particular, long ago stopped fixating on their state’s most famous citizen -- a fact that is perhaps her most compelling reason not to run: She might not win.

Alaska is a notoriously difficult state for pollsters to get a handle on, and recent Palin-related surveys are as scant as the results are mixed. In a May poll conducted by a conservative group called the Tea Party Leadership Fund, Palin held a two-point lead in a hypothetical primary matchup against Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 GOP Senate nominee Joe Miller (the two declared 2014 Republican Senate candidates).

But in a February survey conducted by the Democratically affiliated Public Policy Polling, Begich had a healthy lead of 54 percent to 38 percent over Palin in a hypothetical general election matchup, and only 34 percent of voters statewide held a positive view of their former governor.

Though she has never been one to make decisions based on polling, the very real possibility that Palin could suffer an embarrassing defeat on her home turf is a good reason for thinking twice about a Senate bid.

Palin remains one of the country’s most unpredictable political figures, and perhaps she will ultimately throw caution to the wind and jump into the primary fray for the right to take on Begich.

But the preponderance of evidence and logic suggests she will sit this one out. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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