Palin is not Obama’s biggest threat, she’s his greatest asset

According to recent polling, Sarah Palin is the only GOP front-runner who would not unseat the presi

For all of the the left leaning people who are panicking at the prospect of former half-term governor of Alaska and full-time Facebooker Sarah Palin being elected president of the United States in 2012, I have a simple message for you: relax.

Admittedly, Obama's poll numbers are not exactly stellar. One recent poll being touted by the American conservative media puts his job approval rating at 39 per cent, whereas the real number is probably closer to 45 per cent. There is, however, a small ray of hope. A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that, in Missouri at least, Palin is the one candidate Obama does not have to worry about.

Missouri was carried by John McCain in 2008 with a one per cent margin, after remaining undeclared for several days. (Interestingly, it was also the first time Missouri had voted for a losing Presidential candidate since 1956). As a result it is considered a swing state in Presidential elections. Although it appears to be leaning more towards the GOP recently, it is by no measure a forgone conclusion come election time.

The PPP poll had the sitting president trailing the former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee and the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The only Republican candidate Obama beat was Palin. Of course, this is only in one state, two years before the election and polls have never been a concrete predictor of results. Even with that in mind there are a few things that progressives need to consider.

Firstly, a Sarah Palin presidential candidacy would actually end up being a good thing. As was shown in the 2008 campaign and in the years following, the more the American public gets to know Sarah Palin, the less popular she becomes (her unfavourable ratings are now at 52 per cent, the highest they have been since she was announced as McCain's VP candidate). She does have some impassioned and very vocal supporters but those people comprise a tiny minority of the electorate. If Palin managed to win the Republican nomination in 2012 it would be a gift for Obama.

The second consideration is that, should this poll be indicative of the national opinion (and with the recent shift back towards the GOP at the 2010 midterm elections one could make that argument), there is a very real possibility that Obama will be a one-term president. Should that happen Republicans will trumpet their victory as a repudiation of liberal (or Marxist, if they're feeling particularly strident) policies in America.

This would be bad for all kinds of reasons: the principal reason being that it's frankly not true. When asked about individual issues, a large percentage of Americans are actually further left politically than most Republican politicians or European pundits will admit. The American public overwhelmingly supports openly gay people serving in the US military, more than half say that abortion is OK in certain circumstances, a large portion say that gun laws should be stricter, and the majority support stem-cell research. The Republican Party is on record as being against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", against abortion, want gun control rules to be more lax, and a lot of them oppose stem cell research full stop, never mind federal funding for it. Despite all this, the GOP appears to have the political advantage. Why?

The Republican machine does an excellent job of getting their message to the American public, and right now, that message is one of anger. The American people cannot see things getting better instantly and are starting to become disenchanted with Obama. This is a crying shame due to the fact that literally hundreds of bills are stuck in the Senate where the Republican minority has a filibuster on just about every piece of Democratic legislation.

American anger is misdirected, and the Republicans are exploiting this to great advantage. It is for this reason that anyone who wishes for a more progressive America should be concerned about a Republican president being elected in 2012. If current polling is correct it is an increasingly likely scenario – unless the GOP nominate Palin.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.