There haven't been many in her party who have demonstrated that kind of drawing power in recent years.
And I've heard more than one person say that she alone was responsible for generating the most enthusiasm that John McCain's presidential campaign had last year — until the economic meltdown.
But new poll results suggest that "Americans appear to be souring on [her]."
The poll says 39% of respondents have a favorable view of Palin while 48% have an unfavorable view. And CNN polling director Keating Holland has more bad news for the ex–governor.
"Most of that change has come among Republicans and conservatives. GOP voters still like Palin — two–thirds continue to have a favorable view of her — but she is not as wildly popular among GOPers as she was in the spring, when eight in 10 Republicans had a favorable view of her."
Palin hasn't announced her political intentions for the future — if she has any. And CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser acknowledges that it is uncertain whether her resignation or something she has done is behind the decline. But Holland had some ominous words Palin — and any other would–be presidential candidates with similar favorable ratings — should consider.
"A 39% favorable rating makes it that much tougher for Palin to become president should she decide to run in 2012. Her favorable rating is almost identical to the numbers that former Vice President Dan Quayle got just after leaving office in 1993."
Apparently, Democrats already have picked up on Palin's unpopularity. CNN.com reports that they have been using her and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in their fundraising efforts.
But before Democrats start thinking there are no obstacles to a second term for Barack Obama, here are a few reminders:
- This is only the seventh month of the first year of Obama's four–year term. At comparable points in their first years as president, George H.W. Bush had a 69% approval rating and Jimmy Carter had a 60% approval rating. Both were defeated when they ran for re–election.
Gallup reports that Obama's current approval rating stands at 53%.
- And the midterm elections haven't been held yet. History suggests that they tend to go against the incumbent party. With unemployment at 9.4% and Gallup reporting disapproval of the health reform plan at 49%, the president and his party appear to have their work cut out for them.
If we are using poll numbers from 2009 to project likely outcomes in 2012, we are being foolish.
Poll numbers can be useful for seeing where things stand today — or where things stood a few days ago. But they are of little consequence when predicting what will happen in an election that is still three years away.
What Palin does — and what Obama does — between now and 2012 will have a greater bearing on their political fortunes than what the polls tell us today.