Even in defeat, John McCain bequeathed an invaluable gift to his running mate, Sarah Palin: the national prominence that could allow her to compete for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2012.
While the Alaska governor avoided speculating on a future White House bid in recent interviews, she made it clear that she intends to remain an important player within the party. And the national following she has developed among the conservative faithful over the past couple of months provides her with the sort of political and fundraising base that could support a run.
If Palin does seek the presidency, her campaign would be far different from McCain's. The senator from Arizona launched his bid in 2007 with the aim of forging a more inclusive, enduring Republican majority for the 21st century that would include Latinos, conservative Democrats and independents. Palin, by contrast, has sketched a far more conservative vision for the GOP, one of American exceptionalism in which free-market capitalism and traditional social values remain paramount.
The contest to become the GOP presidential nominee will begin almost immediately, but it also starts without a clear front-runner. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who spent vast sums of his own money on this year's primary contest, appears poised to run again. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a favorite of many conservative thinkers and could challenge Palin for the affections of evangelical Christians. (He will also be among the first Republicans to take what will be widely read as a first step toward a bid on Nov. 22 when he appears at the Iowa Family Policy Center's "Celebrating the Family" banquet.) Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was a finalist to become McCain's running mate, may also be among those who think the time is right to seek the White House.
For Palin, the Senate could also be a path to remaining on the national stage. If Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is reelected but then forced from office because of his recent conviction on bribery-related charges, he would be replaced in a special election as early as next year. The state's other senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, will face reelection in 2010, and the possibility of Palin challenging her in a primary has been floated in some quarters.
Speaking at Bowling Green State University in Ohio recently, Palin remarked: "This is a great part of the country. The patriotism is so strong." Other times, she has suggested that Democratic nominee Barack Obama has apologized for his nationality, adding that by contrast, she McCain "are always proud to be Americans, and we don't apologize for being Americans." The question facing Republicans would be whether she will have the right message at the right time in 2012.
Palin can expect a "no apology" opposition right back at her. While we've turned back the forces of evil in this election, their crusade of hatred isn't over, and our opposition to it must remain firm and unyielding.
We've known "why this election mattered" all along, and now it's clear that we know "how" -- the rest is easy, and the stakes are too great, to ever allow them back into power.
There's no question that Barack Obama will reach across the aisle and offer compromise -- and when compromise isn't forthcoming then there should be no question as to what we have to do.
I think there is a great risk to the progressive agenda -- despite Obama's overwhelming victory and the Democratic gains made in Congress. Obama, as the nation's healer, may focus more on the bipartisan process at the detriment of progressive progress.
We need solutions. S-CHIP is the first agenda now that a Presidential veto is not longer an obstacle, and national healthcare should follow closely. Those of us on the front lines of the past S-CHIP battles know full well the hateful oppositional vitriol from the right has not and will not diminish.
The social conservatives will stand in opposition, and we must stand against them, on S-CHIP, national healthcare, and every other progressive measure that follows.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!