And you thought you’d heard the last from Sarah Palin? Not so fast! The former Alaska governor is back on the national stage, leading a new conservative charge to impeach President Barack Obama. Palin has done her best to remain in the spotlight whenever possible. She’s undergone a lengthy transformation from 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate to talk show host, reality star on cable TV and now conservative celebrity who commands top dollar for speaking engagements.
In a recent column, Palin cited the immigration crisis on the southern border as the “last straw” in what she described as the president’s “purposeful dereliction of duty.” Palin wrote on the conservative website Breitbart.com that the president’s “rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here.” She went on: “It’s time to impeach, and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.”
Well, the idea has already run into some stiff resistance from some notable Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner said he disagrees with Palin’s approach. So does the man who propelled Palin into the national spotlight, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who shocked the political world six years ago when he chose Palin as his vice presidential running mate. Several conservative Republican House members who are sympathetic to the idea of impeaching the president say the move is simply not politically practical at the moment.
Palin’s proposal came as the Obama White House was caught up in an immigration firestorm on the southern border, trying to cope with the influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America. The president has asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency spending to cope with the immigration crisis, but many Republicans in Congress are demanding that the administration first pledge to secure the border and do more to stem the flow of immigrants headed for the U.S.
Republicans prepare to sue Obama
Instead of impeachment, Boehner is trying to build support among House Republicans for a lawsuit he would like to file against the president for taking executive actions that he believes are unconstitutional. So far that idea appears to have more appeal among House conservatives than a futile drive for impeachment, even though Palin and other conservative activists were quick to dismiss Boehner’s plan as weak.
“You don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight,” Palin said on the “Hannity” program on Fox News.
Of course, a lot of this relates to election year politics. Palin’s call for impeachment could be a motivating factor for conservative activists to get out and cast their ballots this November in the midterm congressional elections. Then again they may not need the additional incentive. Much of the political energy this year already seems to be with Republicans eager to vote against the president and his policies in November.
The Democrats’ big challenge remains motivating their base supporters to get out and vote in November. The president’s falling public approval ratings, down to about 40 percent in most polls, is likely to depress Democratic turnout. But it’s possible that the prospect of Palin leading the charge for the president’s impeachment could spur a bit of a political backlash and might spur some Democrats to get off the couch and out to the polls in November.
One thing you can bet on—both sides will reference the Palin impeachment push in their fundraising campaigns. Conservatives will cheer a confrontational posture they believe is lacking from Republican leaders in Washington. Liberal activists will try to use it as a clarion call to wake up lethargic Democrats who need convincing to get to the polls in November. In fact, not long after Palin issued her call for impeachment, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi fired off a fundraising email on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warning Democratic voters of the consequences of the impeachment effort and Boehner’s plan for a lawsuit.
Republicans’ 2016 hopes go through Cleveland
Republicans have chosen Cleveland, Ohio, as the site of their 2016 presidential nominating convention. Cleveland beat out other contenders including Las Vegas and, finally, Dallas, which hosted the Republican convention in 1984 and set the stage for President Ronald Reagan’s re-election.
Apart from the talk about hotel rooms and downtown amenities, most political analysts believe the Republicans chose Cleveland primarily because they think it might give them a leg up in the battle for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes two years from now. No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. Barack Obama won it both times he ran, while former President George W. Bush won it in his two elections in 2000 and 2004. In fact, it was Ohio that delivered Bush a second term when Democrat John Kerry came up short in the Buckeye state, despite having spent a good deal of time there during the campaign.
Holding their convention in the upper Midwest may help Republicans appeal to a wider swath of the electorate than they have been able to reach in recent years, especially working class and suburbanites who are put off by some of the party’s more extreme elements. The convention could also be a starring vehicle for two of Ohio’s favorite sons who might figure in the 2016 Republican primaries—Governor John Kasich and Senator Rob Portman. Both men are aligned with the Republican Party’s establishment or moderate wing, and they could become options if other better-known potential contenders either stumble or decide not to run for the White House.
Republican presidential candidates have not carried the state where their convention was held since President George H.W. Bush won Texas in 1992. He was nominated for a second term in Houston that year.
Clinton still looks strong
Despite what at times has been a rocky book tour promoting “Hard Choices”, her State Department memoir, Hillary Clinton is still riding high in public opinion polls looking ahead to the 2016 presidential race. The latest Quinnipiac poll found that Clinton has the support of 58 percent of Democrats if she decides to run for the party nomination. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren got 11 percent support and Vice President Joe Biden came in third with nine percent.
Warren’s standing continues to surprise some in the party. She has said she will not be a candidate in 2016 but it’s clear that the support she continues to draw suggests an opening for someone to the left of Clinton to enter the 2016 primaries. Some of those mentioned as possible contenders include California Governor Jerry Brown and Vermont’s independent Senator Bernie Sanders. It just seems inevitable that even if Clinton decides to run, one or more Democrats will step up to challenger her.
In addition, the Quinnipiac poll also found that Clinton would easily beat any of the top potential Republican contenders in 2016 including Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy says Clinton’s image remains strong in the midst of a book tour that has plunged her back into the national spotlight.
“Hillary Clinton has weathered what some would say are bad book sales, some questions about her tenure at the State Department, some questions about what she defines as wealth,” he said. “And yet she sweeps the Democratic field in the 2016 race, so Hillary is still looking very good.”
Republican field wide open for 2016
Malloy also noted that his latest poll shows no clear frontrunner on the Republican side for 2016. Rand Paul led the pack, if you can call it that, with 11 percent support. Christie, Huckabee and Bush were tied for second with 10 percent each. After that came Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, each with eight percent. As Malloy put it, no one on the Republican side seems to have the drive to separate from the pack.
“If you look at it right now, the numbers are 11 percent, 10 percent, eight percent. All of these people, the top seven of them, are all about in the same position,” he said. “So there is just not a lot of momentum on the Republican side.”
As for Hillary Clinton, she may be already putting some distance between herself and Obama if she decides to run. A recent Wall Street Journal story noted that Clinton has been talking about the economic worries of the middle class during her book tour. The book itself also serves a reminder about policy differences they had during her tenure as secretary of state, most notably over Clinton’s desire to arm moderate rebels in Syria at an earlier point in the country’s civil war.
Political analysts predict that if Clinton runs she will have to find ways to chart a different course from Obama, even while she points to accomplishments in foreign policy during his first term. Given the president’s poor approval ratings, experts say it is likely voters will be looking for change in 2016 and for a candidate who can embody that change. Under this theory, Clinton running to extend Obama’s policies into a third presidential term simply won’t work. Of course, Clinton must prepare for the possibility that voters are so discouraged by the political dysfunction in Washington that they simply decide to cast their lot with the Republican candidate, assuming that person is someone acceptable to moderates.
In short, Clinton’s path to the White House may involve a complicated political dance—relying on a strong Democratic turnout, especially among women, and at the same time being able to appeal to centrist voters looking to move in a different direction from the Obama years. It’s a long way until 2016 and lots of things can happen, but have no doubt that among those considering a run for president, the political calculations are already well underway.