GOP Base to S.P.: “Don’t Worry, We Still Heart U!!! ;-)”

A new Rasmussen poll shows that whatever negative effect Palin had on independents and undecideds as they went to the polls, the tractor beam she has on the GOP base has lost none of its power, with her approval ratings still above those of the guy who plucked her from obscurity.  And no, I’m not talking about Steve Schmidt:

Seventy-one percent (71%) said McCain made the right choice by picking Palin as his running mate, while only 65% said the party picked the right nominee for president.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republican voters say Alaska Governor Sarah Palin helped John McCain’s bid for the presidency, even as news reports surface that some McCain staffers think she was a liability.

Only 20% of GOP voters say Palin hurt the party’s ticket, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Six percent (6%) say she had no impact, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

Ninety-one percent (91%) of Republicans have a favorable view of Palin, including 65% who say their view is Very Favorable. Only eight percent (8%) have an unfavorable view of her, including three percent (3%) Very Unfavorable.

When asked to choose among some of the GOP’s top names for their choice for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, 64% say Palin. The next closest contenders are two former governors and unsuccessful challengers for the presidential nomination this year — Mike Huckabee of Arkansas with 12% support and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts with 11%.

It’s interesting that Newt Gingrich is nowhere in the mix.  Apparently, the GOP intends to look to a personality rather than new ideas–or any ideas for that matter–to lead them out of the woods.  There’s at least one problem with that formulation, though:  the rest of the country isn’t buying what the Shillah from Wasilla has on sale:

The key for the 44-year-old Palin will be whether she can broaden her base of support. An Election Day survey found that 81% of Democrats and, more importantly, 57% of unaffiliated voters had an unfavorable view of her.

We had a spirited debate at dinner last night about whether the GOP would, Buckley-style, be able to muster the requisite introspection needed to refashion themselves as the party of the middle class.  Alternatively, as Paul Krugman harrumphed last week,

…the Republican rump, the party that’s left after the election, will be the party that attends Sarah Palin’s rallies, where crowds chant “Vote McCain, not Hussein!” It will be the party of Saxby Chambliss, the senator from Georgia, who, observing large-scale early voting by African-Americans, warns his supporters that “the other folks are voting.” It will be the party that harbors menacing fantasies about Barack Obama’s Marxist — or was that Islamic? — roots.

Why will the G.O.P. become more, not less, extreme? For one thing, projections suggest that this election will drive many of the remaining Republican moderates out of Congress, while leaving the hard right in place.

Also, the Republican base already seems to be gearing up to regard defeat not as a verdict on conservative policies, but as the result of an evil conspiracy. A recent Democracy Corps poll found that Republicans, by a margin of more than two to one, believe that Mr. McCain is losing “because the mainstream media is biased” rather than “because Americans are tired of George Bush.”

A number of commentators from all over the idealogical spectrum have pointed out that Obama’s 6-point margin was only large relative to the most recent history, and nothing like the drubbing of Goldwater in 1964 and Carter in 1980 which caused both parties to fundamentally re-assess who they were.   George Will argues that

Although John McCain‘s loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday’s trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater’s loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain’s loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.

Adding to the likelihood that the Krugman and Will are right is the odd fact, reported first in the New Yorker, that “thinkers” on the right such as William Kristol and Fred Barnes were among Palin’s biggest advocates before her nomination, and likely remain key guys in her corner. 

The Republican Party finds itself in the midst of what one might call a secular bear market, and the end of a bear market requires capitulation.   As long as two thirds of Republicans (and 100% of Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes) still think that the cure for the party’s ills is Sarah Palin, the GOP’s bear will continue to growl.


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