Tonight's GOP debate on CNN could prove crucial for several of the Republican candidates and potential candidates in a still-roiled, still-early race for their party’s nomination to attempt to unseat President Obama in 2012.
Michelle Bachmann, the Tea Party favorite from Minnesota, will make her national debut as a 2012 contender on the stage in Manchester, NH. As the front-runner so far, Mitt Romney will be under pressure not to hurt himself. Newt Gingrich will stop in New Hampshire on Redemption Road. And former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty simply will be trying to get more traction.
Sarah Palin won’t be on the GOP-candidate stage tonight, and perhaps never. But her long “non-candidate” campaigning, and national media attention as the outspoken former governor of Alaska, leave her as a looming presence over the debate nonetheless. You can betcha that if she finally decides to leap into the fray, the post-debate dynamics will be upset.
In the meantime, Palin keeps drawing mainstream-media attention like moths to a flame. During the last few days, it was revealed that a handful of liberal news heavyweights – including the New York Times, Washington Post and MSNBC.com – had devoted a lot of time and money to poring through more than 13,000 Palin e-mails from when she was governor. And what did they come up with for their investment? Presumably almost nothing, by their measure.
The trove “paints a picture of [Palin] as an idealistic, conscientious, humorous and humane woman slightly bemused by the world of politics,” observed Toby Harnden of The Telegraph in the UK – hardly the kind of “smoking gun” that her media pursuers might have been after. Even the New York Times’ David Carr commented that the 24,000 pages of e-mails “contained nothing notable” and that, post-investigation, Palin seemed “guilty of nothing more than the excessive use of exclamation points.”
Of course, Palin did raise doubts last week about her mastery of U.S. Revolutionary history in the kerfuffle over her depiction of Paul Revere’s ride. But it didn’t seem even that gaffe – maybe on a par with Obama’s declaration during the 2008 campaign that there are “57 states” – deserved Carr’s conflation of outsiders’ investigation of Palin’s innocuous e-mails with Democrat politician Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter-fueled self-destruction.
Carr noted “what Ms. Palin and Mr. Weiner were learning last week: while e-mail, Facebook and Twitter may be wonderful tools of engagement, easy communication has its downsides.”
Sure, Palin’s e-mails revealed that one early California supporter in 2008 addressed her as “Gov Goddess.” Surely that’s in the same league with Weiner’s hijinks in the Congressional gym.
As for tonight's GOP debate, will it matter this far ahead of the Nov. 2012 US presidential election? Yes and no, argues PBS Newshour analysts Judy Woodruff and Hari Sreenivasan:
[Image via CNN]