Palin lacks “gravitas”, says Rove

Former Bush strategist questions if Sarah Palin is suitable to stand for president.

The senior party strategist Karl Rove has suggested that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaskan governor Sarah Palin lacks the "gravitas" needed to win the American people's votes, reports the Telegraph.

In an interview, Rove stresses the importance of candidates giving voters the confidence that "they are up to the most demanding job in the world" and argues that Palin needs to prove she is up to the job.

In relation to Palin's upcoming Discovery Channel reality-TV show, in which she is to explore the Alaskan wilderness, Rove says he is "not certain how that fits in the American calculus of 'that helps me see you in the Oval Office' ". He points out that the programme's promotional material, which features Palin saying she "would rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office", could be particularly problematic for any presidential campaign.

Rove, who was deputy chief of staff under George W Bush, also implies that Palin may struggle in the presidential primaries, which begin in the new year, noting: "It's going to be blood, it's going to be sweat and tears and it's going to be hard effort."

Palin is a divisive figure for Americans, and Rove suggests that, despite strong grass-roots support for her, the race for the Republican primaries is wide open. "Outside of the true believers", he says, most Republican primary voters are still undecided and open to persuasion.

Early indications are that Palin does indeed intend to run for the presidency. She has recently given a speech in Iowa, site of the first caucuses, and is reported to have been gathering both money and staff.

As the race for the Republican presidential nomination tightens, more heavyweights will weigh in on the contest, with potential dividing lines emerging between established figures such as Rove and newer, more divisive candidates with substantial popular support.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn bids for the NHS to rescue Labour

Ahead of tomorrow's by-elections, Corbyn damned Theresa May for putting the service in a "state of emergency".

Whenever Labour leaders are in trouble, they seek political refuge in the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, whose party faces potential defeat in tomorrow’s Copeland and Stoke by-elections, upheld this iron law today. In the case of the former, Labour has already warned that “babies will die” as a result of the downgrading of the hospital. It is crude but it may yet prove effective (it worked for No to AV, after all).

In the chamber, Corbyn assailed May for cutting the number of hospital beds, worsening waiting times, under-funding social care and abolishing nursing bursaries. The Labour leader rose to a crescendo, damning the Prime Minister for putting the service in a “a state of emergency”. But his scattergun attack was too unfocused to much trouble May.

The Prime Minister came armed with attack lines, brandishing a quote from former health secretary Andy Burnham on cutting hospital beds and reminding Corbyn that Labour promised to spend less on the NHS at the last election (only Nixon can go to China). May was able to boast that the Tories were providing “more money” for the service (this is not, of course, the same as “enough”). Just as Corbyn echoed his predecessors, so the Prime Minister sounded like David Cameron circa 2013, declaring that she would not “take lessons” from the party that presided over the Mid-Staffs scandal and warning that Labour would “borrow and bankrupt” the economy.

It was a dubious charge from the party that has racked up ever-higher debt but a reliably potent one. Labour, however, will be satisfied that May was more comfortable debating the economy or attacking the Brown government, than she was defending the state of the NHS. In Copeland and Stoke, where Corbyn’s party has held power since 1935 and 1950, Labour must hope that the electorate are as respectful of tradition as its leader.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.