Let me state at the outset that I do not support Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 2012. I plan to support Mitt Romney for the nomination in 2012, as I also did in 2008. In any event, the candidate who receives the support of Governor Chris Christie will have a huge advantage over all the other Republican Presidential contenders in the 2012 New Jersey primary.
Having said that, I do not deny that Sarah Palin is indeed a national political phenomenon. She is highly charismatic and far more intelligent than most pundits acknowledge. Most importantly, she has uncanny political instincts. There is no doubt that she will be the leading drawing card and fundraiser for Republican candidates for the United States Senate and House of Representatives in Campaign 2010.
Do not, however, expect to see her campaigning for any New Jersey Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives this fall.
The last polls in New Jersey to report favorable/unfavorable ratings of Sarah Palin were the Monmouth University/Gannett and Quinnipiac Polls of October 21, 2008, two weeks before the Presidential election. Both polls reported Palin with upside down ratings, 36%-45% in the Monmouth University/Gannett Poll and 33%-50% in the Quinnipiac Poll. I would doubt that subsequent events have boosted her favorability ratings in New Jersey to any significant extent.
All five incumbent New Jersey Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives are virtual shoe-ins for reelection this November, and certainly none of them would have any reason to rock the boat, so to speak, by bringing Palin to New Jersey for a fundraiser.
Palin obviously will only campaign for Republican challengers in House races where there is a chance of winning. There are three such races in New Jersey: the 3rd District (Democrat incumbent John Adler); the 6th District (Democrat incumbent Frank Pallone); and the 12th District (Democrat incumbent Rush Holt).
In each of these three districts, there will likely be a Republican primary, and Palin certainly could be a huge plus for her endorsed primary candidate among conservative voters. While her endorsement and campaigning could conceivably deliver a primary victory, association with her would doom her candidate in any of these three districts in the general election. Therefore, I doubt that any such Republican primary candidate will seek her assistance.
I am not a harsh critic of Sarah Palin, and I do think she has national ticket potential, although not in 2012. I do find that she has a significant lack of intellectual curiosity. Before running for national office, she should burnish her foreign policy credentials by study and travel to significant venues and likewise read important economic works. This is something Ronald Reagan did on a continuing basis both before and after he entered the political world.
In short, Sarah Palin does have the intelligence to reinvent herself. She certainly has the ambition. The question is whether she has the intellectual curiosity to do so.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations. He currently serves as Public Servant in Residence at Monmouth University.