Sarah Palin's endorsement could save Rick Perry's presidential campaign, Shayne Lee says
It could also give Palin newfound relevance since she's not in the race herself, he says
Lee: Palin's endorsement would give the Texan more street cred among tea party constituents
Palin's presence would also force Perry and Mitt Romney further to the right, Lee says
Editor’s Note: Shayne Lee is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Houston and the author of three books.
After seeing Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s lackluster performance in debates and accompanying drop in the polls, some pundits conclude it would take a force of nature to save his campaign. Fortunately for Perry, such a force does exist, and her name is Sarah Palin.
A dose of Palin power would do much to revitalize Perry’s chances to win the Republican presidential nomination.
Of course, such a coveted endorsement comes with costs. Rock stars such as Palin don’t just walk into campaign headquarters asking to lend a helping hand. Perry must be committed to a careful wooing process and to meeting most of her demands, however diva-esque they may be.
So why should Perry grovel at Palin’s feet in solicitation of unmitigated support? Because in the big picture, Palin power is just what the campaign doctor ordered.
Just envision the image of these two politicians hitting the trails in Iowa and New Hampshire, flanked by journalists and flashing cameras at every juncture. This dynamism and attention would infuse Perry’s campaign with a Hollywood cachet that his opponents lack.
Or better yet, imagine a commercial with Palin touting Perry as a great American and a true, true Christian (hint hint).
Palin’s endorsement would give the Texan more street cred among tea party constituents, generate large crowds and fill his campaign coffers till overflowing. But more decisively, Palin’s advocacy would do for Perry what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of Mitt Romney does not, and that is excite a critical contingent of the Republican base: those pesky evangelicals who are just begging for an excuse to reject Romney.
Perry’s Texas charm coupled with Palin’s rock-star status would get everyone talking about the Texan as a viable candidate again. With front-runner Herman Cain sidetracked by the recent revelation of sexual harassment allegations leveled at him while he ran the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, the timing for a Perry-Palin alliance could not be better.
But while it is easy to see how Perry could benefit from an infusion of Palin power, what does the Alaskan maverick with a penchant for self-promotion have to gain by pitching her potency toward Perry?
With Palin’s decision not to enter the race comes the threat of losing her voice. Supporting Perry would provide Palin with a plausible context to remain in the limelight, which translates into more photo ops, more speeches, more television interviews and more chances to flex her muscles.
So both politicians have something to gain from joining forces. From Perry’s vantage point, the Texan can win the nomination with her support. From Palin’s perspective, her legend soars for saving a campaign on life support and, should Perry lose, she can save face by passionately proclaiming that she fought for the candidate and the values in which she believes.
The country would also benefit from this strategic alliance because Palin’s polarizing presence would force both Perry and Romney to reveal more precisely their conservative proclivities and commitments. Simply put, Palin power would push both candidates more to the right, producing a more informed voting public and a clearer contrast between President Barack Obama and the eventual Republican nominee.
As Perry and Palin proceed toward the precipice of an uncertain future, each holds the solution to the other’s most pressing problem: Palin provides Perry with resuscitation; Perry gives Palin relevance.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Shayne Lee.