Sarah Palin: Is the bloom off her rose?

Tea party-backed candidates for the US Senate are offering tepid comments on Sarah Palin's qualifications for high office. Other Republican candidates decline to join her at GOP fundraiser.

By , Staff writer

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    Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a benefit dinner for Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 7.
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Did we miss something, or is the bloom a bit off Sarah Palin’s rose?

Two prominent tea party-backed candidates for the US Senate are offering tepid comments on her qualifications for high office. Other major GOP candidates find they have “scheduling conflicts” preventing them from attending a Republican National Committee fundraiser where Palin will be a major attraction.

She continues to toy with the possibility of a presidential run in 2012, comparing herself to Ronald Reagan – another celebrity who won the White House. Yet most Americans think she’s not qualified for the job.

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A CBS News poll this past week shows her favorable/unfavorable ratings at a dismal 22-48 percent. In California, according to a new Field Poll, her figures are even worse with a 58 percent unfavorability rating. Tellingly, 53 percent of those surveyed by Field said they’d be less inclined to vote for a candidate endorsed by Palin. Among nonpartisan voters, that number rose to 66 percent.

That’s no doubt why Carly Fiorina (attempting to unseat Barbara Boxer from the US Senate) and Meg Whitman (running against Jerry Brown for California governor) have declined to appear with Palin just two weeks before the election. “Scheduling conflicts,” don’t you know.

That CBS News poll also has 64 percent of those surveyed agreeing that Palin is not qualified to be president – including a plurality of Republicans. Even 39 percent of those who describe themselves as tea party supporters say Palin does not have “the ability to be an effective president.”

Nobody reads polls closer than candidates, and tea party-backed contestants for high office who had Palin’s endorsement are no different. That includes Joe Miller in Alaska and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, both of whom waffled mightily when asked if Palin has what it takes to be president.

The most Miller could offer is that Palin is “qualified” in the sense that she’s old enough and a citizen born in the United States, prompting a hurt feelings e-mail from Todd Palin. O’Donnell refused to answer a “hypothetical question.”

Meanwhile, Palin herself remains coy on the subject.

“Speaking to a group of well-connected Republicans at a private dinner in Florida this week, Sarah Palin implicitly addressed questions about her own electability by noting that critics also said Ronald Reagan couldn’t win in 1980,” reports Politico.com, which talked with three people who attended the private dinner.

“Trying to divine her intentions – does she just want to stay in the presidential mix to build her brand, or is she actually running? – is difficult,” writes Politico’s Jonathan Martin. “But the mere act of meeting with the sort of Republican donors, strategists and activists who fund and advise presidential campaigns is telling.”

“I think she sees herself as heir to Reagan,” one attendee at that high-powered dinner told Martin.

There are parallels. Both Reagan and Palin were governors. Both were major celebrities. Both butted heads with their party’s establishment.

But the details are far different.

Reagan was a celebrity before he became president, then governed one of the largest and most complex states for a full two terms. Palin was governor of a state with a population far smaller than Fresno, then dropped out after two years, becoming a professional celebrity only after she and John McCain lost their run for the White House.

But she’s got a good – and very lucrative – gig going, and she certainly continues to play a major role in electoral politics. That should last through 2012, whether Barack Obama is reelected or some other Republican burning with presidential ambition beats him.

IN PICTURES: Who's who? Christine O'Donnell & Sarah Palin

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