For many Republicans, the one bright spot in last Tuesday's election was not the 72-year-old war hero running as the GOP presidential nominee, but the cheerful “pitbull in lipstick” who charged the party's conservative base and lit up audiences around the country.
Never mind that the ticket of Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lost the election by a country mile. And never mind that Palin's post-convention bounce didn't provide a sufficient boost to the Republican ticket to carry it over Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden. To those who loved her straight talk and enthusiasm – if not her flawed grasp of issues – Sarah Palin is the future of the Republican Party.
Palin clearly is interested in national office, including the Senate and the White House. She spoke Thursday at the Republican Governors Conference in Miami on “Looking Toward the Future” and made it plain that she intends to be part of the national debate about leadership.
She will have plenty of opportunity to do so, and she's already taking advantage of it. No sooner was she back in Alaska than she was wooing the news media, spooning up moose chili and moose stew to reporters, serving up a stout defense of her wardrobe-buying habits and ladling out condemnation of McCain campaign aides (“jerks”) who anonymously criticized her candidacy.
Palin clearly has work to do. As governor of a state that shares its oil-lease income with residents in annual checks, she'll need to explain how that differs from the spread-the-wealth socialism she criticized in Democrats' economic proposals.
And for anyone looking for some straight-shooting from a hunter who's supposed to be a good shot, she needs practice. Asked if she'll run again, she told Fox News, “If there's an open door in 2012 or four years later, and if it's something that is going to be good for my family, my state, my nation and an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door.”
Ready for prime time? You bet. She's a hot ticket. Ready for the White House? Not even close. She has four years to make a case that she has yet to put together.