Sarah Palin has finally announced that she won't run for political office with a speech that barely registered on the Political Richter Scale. She's become the latest in a slew of presidential hopefuls who were once on losing vice-presidential tickets to fail miserably in their own campaigns.
You'd think that a former vice-presidential candidate would start off with all kind of advantages. First of all, such candidates enjoy strong name recognition from being in a high-profile race. Second, such candidates are able to pass off the failures of that electoral contest on to the top of the ticket, assuring the party that they would never make such mistakes. Third, the national media will have already scrutinized such candidates for skeletons in the closet. There are no new revelations to come out about the vice-presidential candidate, or so the theory goes.
But there's something about Sarah Palin and all other vice-presidential candidates for office that is worse than the Curse of the Billy Goat for the Chicago Cubs. The best laid plans of such candidates unravel almost before they begin. Not only has just one such candidate prevailed since 1900, but only one other even secured his party's nomination for political office.
John Edwards from 2004 failed in his 2008 presidential bid, even before the embarrassing revelations about his extra-marital activities came to light. Joe Lieberman from 2000 was not only an early primary casualty, but he lost his renomination bid for the U.S. Senate to a political neophyte (relying on Republicans and independents to secure a last term in office). Jack Kemp from 1996 was finished after that election. Lloyd Bentsen of 1988 may have crushed Quayle in the debates, but underwhelmed even as Treasury Secretary. Geraldine Ferraro from 1984 couldn't even win a pair of statewide elections after that debacle.
Only Bob Dole from 1976 won his party's nomination, but it took him three tries (1980, 1988, 1996) to get it, only to be beaten soundly by President Bill Clinton. Edmund Muskie from 1968 was at least a front-runner in 1972, before his chances melted away over accusations that he cried. Sargent Shriver of 1972 may as well have cried, given how poorly he fared in 1976.
For others (Miller, Lodge, Kefauver, Sparkman, Bricker, Knox, McNary, Robinson, Bryan, Johnson, Kern, Davis and Stevenson), even most trivia contests would think it was unfair to use them as answers to political questions. Those who did run never scored a nomination. The only vice-presidential candidate to prevail as president was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ran with the James Cox ticket in 1920, though Charles Evans Hughes (1916) and Earl Warren (1948) both became Chief Justices of the Supreme Court.
It's hard to know where to start with Palin. It could be the early gubernatorial resignation (sparking buttons like "Palin in 2012-2014.5"), or the history gaffes (Paul Revere), or the failed television show, or the endorsements that hurt more than helped (Karen Handel), or backing candidates that lost winnable seats (Joe Miller), or some combination of all of them.
Palin supporters may blame that shooting incident in Tucson, but Palin was behind by more than 20 percentage points against President Obama before that event, after Obama's party just got hammered in the 2010 election.Some still feel Sarah Palin is a potent force, though three-fourths of Republicans and two-thirds of TEA Party faithful begged her not to run. Something tells me that Palin has a better chance of being the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court instead of President.
- Sarah Palin