Sam Stein reports on Sarah Palin’s latest dig against Michelle Obama, and has this bit of analysis:
That the former Alaska Governor thinks the president’s family members are fair game is now obvious. But the apparent glee she takes in attacking the first lady remains surprising, at least politically. Among the deficits in public opinion that Palin suffers are pretty harsh favorability ratings among female voters. Going after the first lady (who remains relatively beloved by voters) doesn’t help that matter. Doing it over something as benign as trying to help children fight obesity seems confused.
This is a standard beltway political analysis, and it reflects a basic misunderstanding of Palin’s strategy in general, and specifically why Palin doesn’t give a shit about Michelle Obama’s gender or popularity.
Palin’s goal is to mobilize a base of Fox-watching, resentment-driven primary voters. These people are mainly white and male, and they do not like Michelle Obama. Palin’s characterization of Michelle Obama as an elite black woman who thinks she knows better just stirs the pot of resentment that Palin thinks will drive her primary victories. In the eyes of the typical Palin primary voter, Mrs. Obama’s anti-obesity program is in no way “benign” — it’s another example of that uppity Princeton-educated black ballbuster thinking she knows better than real Americans.
Second, if Palin does get the nomination, she’ll be a weak candidate with little or no positive agenda. So, she’ll have to attack Michelle and Barack Obama, Sasha, Malia and Bo, repeatedly and without regard to their poll numbers. She will run a constant Twitter and Facebook attack machine with the goal of making Obama look weak if he doesn’t respond, but also making him look like he’s picking on her and her family if he does. Her strategy for attracting women voters will be to make Obama look like he isn’t tough enough to defend his wife and family, and then to make him look like a jerk for attacking poor defenseless Sarah.
Palin will be able to pursue this strategy in large part because she won’t be subject to the same media rules as her primary or general opponents. The mainstream media dutifully reports her every tweet but is unable to question her directly on the horseshit that she spews. My guess is that she won’t travel with any press but Fox and associated friendly outlets. She’s shown a basic capability of participating in a debate and not making a complete ass of herself, if she’s prepped correctly, so she’ll probably outperform the low expectations that will accompany that little ritual.
My point isn’t that she’s unstoppable, just that the campaign analysis in the mold of Teddy White and Jack Germond isn’t the way to understand the Palin project. She isn’t part of that system, and she doesn’t play by its rules.