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Palin spin a dizzying disconnect

If the lineup of Republican presidential hopefuls for 2012 includes soon-to-be former Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Sarah Palin of Alaska, Pawlenty will have an ace up his sleeve during televised debates. When one of those mainstream media types Palin loves to hate asks why she resigned as governor in midterm, Pawlenty will be able to draw the obvious comparison: He did not quit despite his state's budget problems and a hostile Democrat-controlled Legislature. Unlike the Alaskan, the Minnesotan can boast he was able to take the heat in the political kitchen.

Palin's fans have been spinning her surprise resignation until even they are dizzy with hypocrisy. They believe the darling of the shrinking Republican conservative base can do no wrong. But the fading glow of a falling star must be little comfort.

To be sure, Palin is still a star, but not necessarily the sort of star who can win a national election. The fact that some in the Republican Party still cling to the fiction that she is the party's savior indicates just how desperate the party is to find viable candidates. As Sen. John McCain's running mate in 2008, Palin certainly energized true believers at the Republican National Convention. But when it counted -- when Americans voted on Election Day -- Palin did not appeal to the vast middle that determines the outcome of elections. Strident, flippant and grammatically challenged, she was a sideshow -- part self-made, part created by the McCain camp. The GOP ticket, which had other problems as well, was unable to sustain the Palin-inspired post-convention bounce.

Quitting for the reasons she clumsily listed suggests she is the lightweight her critics say she is. There are several governors on the Republican presidential hopeful list, none of whom can be characterized as quitters:

Mitt Romney took brickbats in Massachusetts from his own party for health insurance reform. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas was savaged for pushing through education reforms. Charlie Crist of Florida has been the target of furious attacks from the right because of hurricane insurance reforms. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana did not skedaddle to the high grass because of a storm of criticism over a partisan speech that was little more than rambling boilerplate. And Minnesota's Pawlenty has stood his ground despite bipartisan attacks on his gutsy decision to "unallot" appropriations because of the state's budget crisis. None quit in mid-term. All are viable presidential candidates for 2012.

Any one of those governors and former governors would jump at the chance to debate a vacuous quitter during the presidential primaries. -- The Forum