Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin.
Interviews with advisers to the main 2012 presidential contenders and with other veteran Republican operatives make clear they see themselves on a common, if uncoordinated, mission of halting the momentum and credibility Palin gained with conservative activists by plunging so aggressively into this yearâ€™s midterm campaigns.
There is rising expectation among GOP elites that Palin will probably run for president in 2012 and could win the Republican nomination, a prospect many of them regard as a disaster in waiting.
Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palinâ€™s nomination would ensure President Barack Obamaâ€™s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee â€” an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy â€” have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.
“There is a determined, focused establishment effort â€¦ to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin,” said one prominent and longtime Washington Republican. “We believe she could get the nomination, but Barack Obama would crush her.”
This sentiment was a nearly constant refrain in POLITICO interviews with top advisers to the candidates most frequently mentioned as running in 2012 and a diverse assortment of other top GOP officials.
Nearly all of these interviewees insisted on keeping their views on background, fearing the wrath of conservative grass-roots activists who are enthralled with the former Alaska governor and who have made plain that the establishmentâ€™s disdain for Palin and her devotees is mutually reciprocated.
Top Republicans, from presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to highly influential advisers such as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, are said to be concerned she will run, and could win, according to the officials.
A Palin adviser declined to comment.
Most, if not all, of the top GOP presidential contenders will hold off on formal announcements until next spring, in part to get a better handle on what Palin will do. Instead, they will focus on lining up key supporters and raising enough money to prove their viability by the end of March. The officials said the price of entry to compete credibly in Iowa and New Hampshire will be roughly $35 million.
The stop-Palin talks are by no means coordinated among the various campaigns. But top advisers for most of the 2012 hopefuls told us the candidates â€” as well as many establishment figures â€” are fixated on the topic, especially on how to keep her from running or how to deny her the nomination if she does run.
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