Did “Game Change” change anyone’s mind about Sarah Palin?
One day following HBO’s broadcast of the movie about Ms. Palin’s rise and struggles as the VP nominee on the 2008 GOP ticket, the full story on that isn’t yet in. Undoubtedly, some enterprising pollster will have numbers on Palin out in days or weeks. But here’s our prediction: Little about her national reputation will have changed.
Yes, the film showed John McCain’s aides aghast at what they felt to be Palin’s lack of suitability for a national post. On MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Monday, former McCain senior strategist Steve Schmidt said this portrayal was “very accurate.”
“You see this person who is just so phenomenally talented at so many levels, an ability to connect, but also someone who had a lot of flaws,” Mr. Schmidt said.
But “Game Change” also humanized the ex-Alaska governor, in some ways, notably in portraying her ability to connect with parents of children with special needs, since she is such a parent herself.
The fact is that at this point, Palin is one of the most famous people in the United States, and for most voters, her reputation is set in stone. They love her, or they hate her, or perhaps they love to hate her. Her supporters will find the negative parts of “Game Change” nothing but left-wing Hollywood propaganda. Her detractors will discount any aspect of the broadcast that makes her look good.
But here’s a question we find more intriguing: Did “Game Change” miss its moment? Is it dredging up a story in which the US actually has a declining interest?
Probably the film’s producers thought it likely that Palin would be running for president herself at the moment. Imagine the media frenzy if that were the case: There'd be far more discussion of this on cable news than there already is.
Palin is in fact a less popular presence on the US political scene, judging by poll numbers and search-engine metrics. Early last summer, she was a front-runner among Republicans for their party’s nomination. Last August, she still had a fairly high positive intensity score of 16 among GOP primary voters, according to Gallup. But that was a high point, and by September this measure – which is the result of subtracting unfavorable from favorable numbers – had already declined to 10.
After Palin said she would not run, most national pollsters stopped including her in their rankings. However, if you look at Google Trends rankings, you can see that around October, the number of people typing “Sarah Palin” into the giant search engine declined below the number of folks looking for “Mitt Romney.”
The same holds true for the other GOP challengers, although the dates at which their Google traffic surpassed Palin’s varies.
The bottom line: “Game Change” is a nostalgic look back at a time that most Americans have moved past. We might add that it is also a sign that loyalty in politics is truly on the decline. Since when have ex-campaign aides been so open about their differences with a candidate who might at some point still want to run? That’s a point that New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni made on Sunday.
“I’ve talked to a few seasoned political hands who maintain that no matter what you think of Palin, you should be disillusioned and alarmed by the breakdown of confidentiality among the campaign staff and consultants who had a responsibility to her and whom she had a right to trust,” Mr. Bruni writes.