A new poll suggests not. Only one in four Americans consider her qualified to be commander in chief, with 60 percent sure that she is not qualified. Those are awful numbers and I’m one who thinks the prospects of a Palin presidency are, for the moment, quite unlikely.
But perception of Palin could still change. Consider some pre-’08 election polling about whether then first-term Senator Barack Obama was ready for the White House. Obama’s numbers were never Palin bad. But they weren’t pretty, either. In July of 2007, for instance, Obama was seen as qualified to be president by only 40 percent of adults surveyed, including just one in three white voters. As late as July 2008, according to Gallup, only 52 percent of all voters considered Obama prepared to lead the U.S. military. (John McCain, by way of comparison, clocked in a 76 percent.)
Of course, there are plenty of major differences between Obama and Palin that suggest it won’t be so easy for her to cross the bar should she ever make it to a general election. (Republican voters have a much higher estimation of her standing, and it’s far from unthinkable that she could win the 2012 GOP nomination.) Obama was a sitting Senator, for one thing, attending hearings and voting on national security issues in a high-profile way. Obama also simply had a much better grasp of foreign policy issues than Palin, reduced in 2008 to citing Alaska’s proximity to Russia, has ever demonstrated.
That said, I don’t think anyone can dismiss the words of a blind source quoted by Politico‘s Ben Smith this morning:
The big knock against [Palin] in ’08 was her lack of engagement with national issues — couldn’t name the papers she read, couldn’t answer questions about the Bush Doctrine, obvious improvisations on foreign policy issues.
Now she’s on top of and driving national conversations. She’s a much more plausible national candidate.
I think there’s truth to that. Democrats who dismiss Palin may do so at their own risk.