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Palin, I knew Reagan. You're no Reagan.

By Ed Rollins, Senior Political Contributor
  • Ed Rollins says GOP, Obama met, made progress but need more if Obama wants job in 2012
  • Sarah Palin thinks she can beat him, but Rollins cautions her not to overestimate chances
  • She compares herself to Reagan; he says her experience, stature nowhere near Reagan
  • Rollins: Palin, if you want to run, learn the issues, hire good people, respect Reagan legacy

Editor's note: Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. He is a principal with the Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations firm. He was White House political director for President Ronald Reagan and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

(CNN) -- The first date is over. Not much happened. President Obama and his new governing partners, the House and Senate Republicans, met at the White House along with the Democratic leaders and discussed the unsolvable issues between them.

Even though they made no decisions and both sides went their separate ways, they agreed to start negotiations on extending the tax cuts. That in itself is the beginning of a positive process. They actually talked to each other and talked of a plan for action.

As with real dating, both sides have to get along or nothing will happen. So maybe this situation has more in common with an arranged marriage.

The American voters are the substitute parents, and they want this marriage to work or at least to be civil. And we, the voters, hold the shotgun.

Two short years from now, if we're not happy, we can send them home. If they don't make progress on jobs and getting the economy working, we can send them packing. That includes Obama.

And speaking of Obama and the election two years from now, Sarah Palin now says she thinks she can beat him.

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Maybe she can, but 2012 is a long way off, and there is a nominating process that is intense -- and it takes more than selling a few hundred books in Iowa to win it. Several other serious political players think they can beat her and will wage full-scale political war against her if she tries.

On November 4, I wrote a column under the headline: "Don't underestimate Palin for 2012 run" (I write the columns, not the headlines). It was not a pro- or anti-Palin article but an analysis of the potential candidates for the Republican nomination in 2012.

If I were to title this one, it would be "Sarah, don't overestimate your chances!"

And quit comparing yourself to Ronald Reagan. To paraphrase the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's comments to Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate: I knew Ronald Reagan, and you're no Ronald Reagan.

You're a media star and a great curiosity. You were plucked out of political obscurity because of the whim of presidential contender John McCain, who didn't know you and made you into an overnight sensation. You performed well for three weeks in the campaign, did better than expected against Joe Biden in the debate and then you self-destructed.

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You clearly weren't ready for prime time, but neither was your running mate. After the election, you quit your day job as governor of Alaska with 18 months left in the term and went out and made a fortune making speeches and selling a book.

It was certainly your right, and you're not the first one to cash in on fame. Millions of Americans love you, and I am sure millions more hate you. Unfortunately, that's what happens in politics.

You can be a contender for the Republican nomination in 2012, but you're a long way from being the nominee. You're going to have to beat some very formidable candidates with way more experience and far superior knowledge on issues foreign and domestic. And to rate your chances today, I would put them at "possible" but not "probable." It's an all-uphill battle.

Right now, polls indicate you wouldn't carry your home state of Alaska.

And the Reagan comparisons aren't helping. You might as well compare yourself to Abraham Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt.

Before President Reagan was your age, he was an international movie and television star, the actor's union president and a spokesman for a major U.S. corporation.

I know you were only 2 when Ronald Reagan was elected by a landslide to the first of two terms as governor of California in 1966, but I would have hoped somewhere along the way through the five colleges you attended that you would have learned a little history. And I can tell you being governor of the most populous state is a lot tougher than being governor of one of the least populous ones.

The year you were born, Ronald Reagan picked up the torch of Barry Goldwater after the debacle of 1964 and carried it proudly forward. He rebuilt the Republican Party after Watergate, the resignation of Richard Nixon and the defeat of Gerald Ford in 1976.

He won two electoral landslides and made the presidency work again after several failed presidencies. He also never quit anything or any job before he was done. And he was a great communicator because he not only made great speeches, he wrote many of them because it was what he believed. People listened to them and were moved by them.

Ms. Palin, serious stuff needs to be accomplished in Washington.

If you want to be a player, go to school and learn the issues. Put smart people around you and listen to them. If you want to be taken seriously, be serious. You've already got your own forum. If you want to be a serious presidential candidate, get to work. If you want to be an imitator of Ronald Reagan, go learn something about him and respect his legacy.

If you want to be a gadfly, just keep doing what you're doing.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Rollins.