Exclusive: Republican Leaders Sound Off On Palin Decision : It's All Politics A gathering of opinions from Republican movers and shakers about Sarah Palin's decision to resign as governor.
NPR logo Exclusive: Republican Leaders Sound Off On Palin Decision

Exclusive: Republican Leaders Sound Off On Palin Decision

What her fellow Republicans are saying. hide caption

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Well, you've seen my still-confused reaction to the Sarah Palin announcement that she's going to resign as governor of Alaska on July 26.

I asked a dozen Republican/conservative movers and shakers to describe how they read her decision. Here are some of their responses:

Whit Ayres, president, Ayres, McHenry & Associates Inc.:

If Governor Palin is getting out of political life to protect her family, and especially her children who have been so unfairly attacked, then I understand. But if she is getting out to enhance her standing for higher office, then I'm completely flabbergasted. Quitting before her first term is up sends all the wrong signals. Is she going to quit half way through her next term in office if it gets too difficult? She just handed her critics a boatload of ammunition.

David Carmen, president, The Carmen Group:

Call her the Mario Cuomo of the GOP -- sensitive, enigmatic and a platonic image of a candidate, best when imagined rather than experienced. She will, like Colin Powell before her, keep Presidential ambitions alive but only to accomplish the interim objective - - relevance, book sales, and, oh, did I say...money.

Curt Anderson, Partner, On Message Inc.:

She has gotten a raw deal from the media, the pundits, campaign handlers, and even from many self-professed "Republican strategists". Everyone assumes she is running for President. Maybe so. But it is also possible that she is not running, and just wants to utilize her notoriety to effect the direction of the public debate. She could probably do that in a big way.

Mike Murphy, founding principal, Navigators Global:

Gov. Palin's political future should involve butter and jam because she is now toast. Her press conference was a bizarre, juvenile and entirely self-inflicted train wreck. While she may run in 2012 and could show some support among the Christian right, she is no longer a serious contender for the 2012 Republican nomination.

Former Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN), managing partner, Clark & Weinstock:

Sarah Palin's core supporters will stick with her no matter what. But that's not enough to win a nomination, much less a general election. Her role in politics may well be as a spokesperson on a range of issues, but likely not as a candidate.

Gary Bauer, presidential candidate, 2000; president, American Values:

No Republican can get the GOP nomination for president or win the White House without the Values wing of the party. Given that reality, I have no doubt that between now and 2012 a leader will emerge. For the media, the race is clearly in full swing, especially in regards to Sarah Palin. Reports of Sarah Palin's political death are highly exaggerated and reflect more the biases of the prophets, soothsayers and media talking heads than it does the political reality. Sarah Palin is a force in the GOP and one of the most promising figures in American politics whether she is governor of Alaska or not. It is totally premature to interpret Sarah Palin's announcement as a withdraw from American politics. A year from now, a lot of pundits may be eating their words.

Ron Bonjean, former press secretary to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott; president, The Bonjean Co.:

Governor Palin can now run for President without the balancing act of keeping Alaskan voters happy. While she has a core following, many Republicans are getting tired of the constant drama that surrounds her family. To win over mainstream Republicans and independents, Palin will need to start talking about important ideas or solutions instead of creating or reacting to tabloid issues.

Dan Schnur, former spokesman for John McCain and Pete Wilson, among others; currently teaching at the University of California, Berkeley:

No one knows whether Sarah Palin is going to run for president in 2012 -- probably including herself. But spending next year campaigning for Republican candidates across the country and being welcomed as a conquering hero by conservative audiences wherever she goes sounds like a lot more fun than balancing budgets, dealing with falling oil prices, and fighting off ethics lawsuits. If it works out, maybe she runs for president. If not, it's still not a bad career move.

Roger Stone, writer, The Stone Zone:

Sick of the derision of the media for her unsophisticated country ways and her plain speaking and consistently held to a higher standard than her critics, Palin had enough....

Watching the Washington chattering class pan the Palin moves shows the moronic level of political analysis in the media today. Switch-hitter Dave Gergen; Ed Rollins, who bolted his party to go destroy the candidacy of Ross Perot and then trashed Perot; and Upper West Side reform Democrat Dick Morris, who toiled for Metzenbaum and Clinton but is today a born again Christian and right winger, all panned the Palin move. Fools.

Palin could accomplish nothing more as Governor to burnish her "experience" credentials. Nuisance lawsuits and ethics complaints from garden variety left-wing nuts were costing her hundreds of thousands of dollars and paralyzing state government. The lot of the Governor is painful cuts and delivering bad news for the next 18 months. Who needs it?

Palin has the most valuable commodity a Presidential candidate can have - a base. ... Like Nixon, Palin needs some rehabilitation to her political image caused by the relentless attacks of the elitist media, the knife-work of the relatively talentless Republican Party pros like Steve Schmidt and her own self-inflicted wounds from the post election period that were born out of inexperience at this level of political combat. Like Nixon, Palin can re-make herself in the controlled environment of television. Instead of being tortured by smug media types like Katie Couric, Palin can demonstrate her better understanding of issues and articulate a case against Obama. She can be folksy and plain-spoken and above all, 'smart.' All Hail the Conservative Oprah!

Palin's "star-power," charisma, presence and genuineness can not be discounted. No one can discount her moxie, her energy and her inspirational qualities. Her anti-elite middle-class message can have resonance again when the Obama economic polices likely fail. The Ivy leaguers and Hollywood crowd so high on Obama may be riding for a fall. The media has unfairly labeled her as "dumb." All she must do is disprove this...and she can have sixty minutes each week to do it.

Carl Forti, former communications director at the NRCC who worked for Mitt Romney's 2008 campaign:

You can't run for President from Alaska. So it was clear if Palin harbored national ambitions she couldn't run for re-election. In that scenario, she would have been re-elected and immediately left the state to campaign or go on a "listening tour" in the lower 48. Not an option. That said, she clearly took everyone by surprise by not only resigning, but doing it on July 3rd. It's unclear if she's crazy or crazy like a fox. A couple things are for certain, she'll write a book that will be widely read and critiqued, and she'll be in demand as a talking head and on the speaking circuit. So she can now begin to lay the ground work for a presidential run without the pressure of having to run a state. It remains to be seen if voters will hold it against her for only serving a little over half her term, and if being a half term governor gives her enough of a resume to be a credible candidate for President. But in a party searching for a leader, she took a bold step forward to try and fill that void. Time will tell if that step forward was the first step up a steep hill to the nomination or a step right off the cliff.

Terry Holt, former spokesman for Rep. John Boehner, currently a partner at HDMK:

Sarah's first 48 hours of fame were astonishing. She was engaging and would be widely popular in a party looking for young leaders. It's too bad that she's been both the victim of atrocious image-making, but also disappointing that she's missed out on several opportunities to take charge and remake her own image. Whether its a question of substance as some have suggested, or of disorganization which is more common, we can't know from what we've seen so far. This is one of the few times however, where it might be good that this is politics and not war. She can still live to fight another day. Mark me down for hoping she gets it right this time.

David Winston, president, The Winston Group:

The key thing that was missing in the speech was what exactly she was going to do next. Given that she felt there were other ways to accomplish things that were better achieved than through being Governor, the fact she had not specifically identified what that direction that was, was a major hole in her speech. Additionally, the problem she has had consistently is that the narrative around her has been in large part not been defined by her. The lack of a next step in her speech allowed significant speculation, that again caused her to lose control of her own narrative, and potentially reinforce negative images of her.

While she is very popular with base Republicans, ultimately her political success will depend on what ideas and policies she has developed that are important for the future of the country, and communicating them. At the moment that is very unclear, and that is also unhelpful to her.

And here's a parting thought from Jack Pitney, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College:

Here's a part of the story that many commentaries have missed. Trig may need help for the rest of his life. To provide for it, Palin has to set aside a great deal of money. Right now she is a unique position to do so, as she can get top dollar in speaking fees. Whether or not this consideration drove her decision, expect her to focus on building financial security before launching a bid for office.