Unqualified, but not disqualified?

October 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Dave Weigel spots an oddity in the recent Delaware polling that also appears in some of the national polling around Sarah Palin: Christine O’Donnell gets 41% of the vote in the new Monmouth University survey; but only 35% say she’s qualified.

"So some number of voters think that O’Donnell is unqualified to be a U.S. Senator but will vote for her to become a U.S. Senator," Weigel writes.

This is a measure on which Palin does quite badly in the new ABC News poll: 67% say she’s unqualified to be president, and even Republicans are evenly split. Only 27% call her qualified, a number that’s remained steady. More, though never a majority, have said they’d vote for her in other national surveys.

I’d take this to mean that a lot of Republicans who admire her don’t think she can be president; there’s no contradiction there. 

It also means that a Palin presidential candidacy would require disqualifying Obama as well.

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Ben Smith’s Blog

67% Of Registered Voters Say Sarah Palin Unqualified To Be President

October 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

While Sarah Palin continues to send out signals that seem to indicate she’s running for President in 2012, the vast majority of American voters don’t think she’s qualified for the job:

Sarah Palin’s interest in the presidency is not being reciprocated by most Americans: Two-thirds of registered voters in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say she’s unqualified for the job, and more than half continue to rate her unfavorably overall.

Those results come after Palin, in a television interview this week, said she’d run in 2012 “if there’s nobody else to do it.” That echoed a comment in February, when she said she wouldn’t “close the door that perhaps could be open for me in the future.”

This poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, suggests steep challenges. Palin appears to have gained little luster from the success of the Tea Party political movement with which she’d aligned: Just 39 percent of registered voters see her favorably, the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity. That’s essentially the same as her lows, 37 percent, last winter and spring.

Even fewer, just 27 percent, see her as qualified for the presidency, also essentially unchanged. Sixty-seven percent say she’s not qualified; this peaked at 71 percent in February.

While there are political and ideological divides on Palin, she faces hurdles across the board. Even in her own party, Republicans divide, 47 percent to 46 percent, on whether she’s qualified or unqualified to serve as president. Conservatives split, 45-48 percent, as do Tea Party supporters, 48-48 percent.

In only two groups do majorities see Palin as qualified - conservative Republicans, by 55-40 percent; and “strong” supporters of the Tea Party movement, by a broad 73-22 percent. (They’re a small group, one in 10 registered voters.)

While 82 percent of Democrats and 84 percent of liberals see her as unqualified, as do 70 percent of swing-voting independents and 77 percent of self-described political moderates.

These are extraordinary numbers to see regarding someone that people still regard as a serious player in American politics. I’ve been following politics since the 1980s, and I cannot remember someone who was so wildly unpopular with the general public who still had widespread influence within a major political party.  Dan Quayle had incredibly high negative numbers, but even as Vice-President he was never considered to be a serious voice of influence within the GOP, and when he dipped his toes into the Presidential waters, the GOP greeted his candidacy with a collective shrug.

Not so for Sarah Palin.

Despite the fact that she is viewed negatively by a majority of Americans, she is somehow one of the most popular  leaders in the Republican Party and the conservative political movement. This despite the fact that her political experience consists of a few years as small-town Mayor, a half-term as Governor, and a failed bid for the Vice-Presidency. It’s not what one typically sees from Republicans, who usually rally behind the person with experience and at least some sense of seriousness. With Palin, the lack of experience seems to be a positive for her supporters, and instead of gravitas we have celebrity as evidenced by appearances on reality television and “celebrity” dancing shows. It is the kind of adulation one normally sees attached to a Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley rather than a Ronald Reagan, and I’m not entirely sure it’s appropriate for politics.

As I’ve said before, a typical politician would look at numbers like these, realize that they can’t win, and decide not to run for the good of their party. Sarah Palin, however, does not think like a typical politician, as Steven Taylor noted just yesterday:

Palin represents the culmination of the rise of partisan (specifically in this case Republican/conservative) media that started in the mid-to-late 1980s and grew up alongside the growth of niche media and the segmentation of news/commentary consumption in the United States because of cable and the internet.   It is possible now to not only get conservative-oriented news and commentary it is possible to get exclusively conservative-oriented news and commentary.  Further, Palin has cleverly exploited long-standing resentments within the public about perceptions of liberal bias in the press.   This is especially true of older voters who remember (and resented) the pre-cable era when all the news came through the Big Three Networks and from anchors who were often believed to have liberal-leaning perspectives.


If one places oneself in a situation in which one is more likely to be praised than not (not to mention the clamor this election season for her endorsement), then one is likely to take a distorted view of one’s overall popularity (empirical evidence to the contrary be damned, such as a 22% favorable, 48% not favorable rating in a recent poll).  I know people who are convinced that Palin’s national popularity is on the rise despite the aforementioned empirical evidence.  Why do they think this?  It is because the only news that they consume outside of the local newspaper is Fox News Channel, especially its commentary programming.  If viewers think this (and a poll of Fox News consumers would be quite interesting on this count), then it is hardly difficult to see Palin self-deluding on her actual popularity.  Further, it is generically easy for politicians to see themselves from the perspective of their more ardent supporters rather than from the POV of the broader public.

This is why I think that not only will Palin run for President in 2012, but that she stands a better-than-most-expect chance of winning the GOP nomination. Unless the nation plunges into a deep recession just prior to the 2012 elections, this would virtually guarantee the re-election of Barack Obama and could quite possibly lead to a disaster down-ticket for the GOP just two years after their 2010 triumph. It would be a suicide mission, but it would be exactly what you’d expect from someone at the center of a cult of personality.

Outside the Beltway

Vast Majority Think Palin is Unqualified

October 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds 67% of registered voters think Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president, while just 27% see her as qualified.

Furthermore, Palin “appears to have gained little luster from the success of the Tea Party political movement with which she’d aligned: Just 39% of registered voters see her favorably, the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity. That’s essentially the same as her lows, 37%, last winter and spring.”
Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

Fed Nominee Whom Sen. Shelby Deemed Too Unqualified To Confirm Wins Nobel Prize

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
Richard Shelby thinks this Nobel laureate is unqualified to set monetary policy.

Richard Shelby thinks this Nobel laureate is unqualified to set monetary policy.

Earlier today, Federal Reserve Board nominee Peter Diamond won the Nobel Prize in Economics along with two of his colleagues. Yet, despite the fact that President Obama nominated this Nobel laureate to the Fed nearly six months ago, his nomination is currently being blocked by just one senator. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) believes that this year’s winner of the highest honor in the economics profession is unqualified to actually set economic policy:

[U]nder an arcane procedural rule, the Senate sent Mr. Diamond’s nomination back to the White House on Thursday night before starting its summer recess. A leading Republican senator, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, said that Mr. Diamond did not have sufficiently broad macroeconomic experience to help run the central bank. [...]

As Mr. Shelby noted, Mr. Diamond is not a specialist in monetary economics — the control of the supply of credit and the setting of interest rates — which is the Fed’s traditional purview. But of the five current governors of the Fed, only two, Mr. Bernanke and the vice chairman, Donald L. Kohn, are academic economists who specialize in monetary economics. The other three include a former community banker, a former Wall Street executive and a legal scholar.

Shelby, of course, has a history of this kind of abuse of the Senate Rules to prevent eminently qualified nominees from being confirmed. Earlier this year, Shelby briefly took over 70 nominees hostage in an attempt to strongarm the administration into awarding a $ 35 billion defense contract to his state — although he later lifted these holds once they became politically embarrassing.

But Shelby, of course, is only able to get away with these kinds of shenanigans because the Senate’s rules are shockingly easy to abuse. Indeed, while it is common wisdom that 60 senators are required to get virtually anything done, the reality is much bleaker — most Senate business now requires all 100 senators to consent.

The reason for this is because dissenting senators can force the Senate to waste hours or even days effectively doing nothing in order to pass a single bill or confirm a single nominee. Indeed, as a recent Center for American Progress white paper explains, there isn’t enough time in two entire presidential terms to confirm all of a new president’s nominees by the time that president leaves office:


In other words, the entire government can be hollowed out by a tiny group of senators with a vendetta. Today, Sen. Shelby thinks that a Nobel laureate doesn’t know enough about economics, so that nominee must languish without an up or down vote.  Tomorrow, another senator could disapprove of a nominee’s haircut, and that alone may be sufficient to spike the nomination.

Think Progress

How a Previously Qualified Elizabeth Warren became Unqualified, According to a Previously Progressive Chris Dodd

August 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

July 27: Chris Dodd says of Elizabeth Warren, “She’s qualified, no question about that”

August 9: Katrina VandenHeuvel tweets that several sources have told her Elizabeth Warren would be nominated “next week”

August 12: Warren meets with Financial Services Roundtable President Steve Bartlett and then meets with David Axelrod at the White House to discuss the CFPB position

August 13: Robert Gibbs acknowledges that Warren had been meeting about the CFPB position, but says no announcement would be made in the next week

August 17: Chris Dodd raises questions about whether Warren can manage anything to suggest she may not be confirmable even while he admits she has “a great campaign”

“My simple question about Elizabeth is: Is she confirmable?” Dodd said during a visit Tuesday with The Courant’s Editorial Board. “It isn’t just a question of being a consumer advocate. I want to see that she can manage something, too.”

But when pressed about where he stands, Dodd said: “If the president wants to name her and it goes through the hearing process, then fine, he’ll have my support. But she has to tell me more than just she’s a good consumer advocate or that’s she’s got a great campaign.”

I guess the only question this chronology leaves is whether or not Dodd is acting at the behest of his future employers, the banks, the White House, or both.

Related posts:

  1. Mistaking a Nomination for an Appointment
  2. Obama’s Relentless Abandonment of Progressive Nominees
  3. Leaving Las Vegas


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