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May 1, 2011, 8:30 p.m.

Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Pal­in (R) “said in an in­ter­view last week” that she would not likely run for WH ‘12 “if voters in­dic­ate they’d prefer a more tra­di­tion­al can­did­ate.”

Pal­in: “It isn’t my call - it is the people of Amer­ica wheth­er they would be ready for someone a bit un­con­ven­tion­al, out of the box. You know — be­ing used to tak­ing on the es­tab­lish­ment. Tak­ing on both side of the aisle. Or if they want someone a little more con­ven­tion­al maybe more elect­able — and that’s who they would sup­port.”

Pal­in ad­ded that she wouldn’t “close the door to the idea” but now was fo­cused on next month’s midterm elec­tions. Pal­in “made her re­marks last week dur­ing a vis­it to News­max’s headquar­ters” in FL.

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Pal­in also “used some pro­voc­at­ive lan­guage to de­scribe what may hap­pen if Ir­an ob­tains nuc­le­ar weapons.”

Pal­in: “We have to real­ize that at the end of the day that a nuc­le­ar weapon in that coun­try’s hands is not just Is­rael’s prob­lem or Amer­ica’s prob­lem it is the world’s prob­lem. It could lead to Armaged­don. It would lead to that World War III that could decim­ate so much of this plan­et” (Mar­tin, Politico, 10/11).

Wad­ing In­to Wild, Wild West Vir­gin­ia

Pal­in “weighed in on one of the most com­pet­it­ive races in the coun­try” on 10/11, throw­ing her sup­port be­hind ‘84/‘06 nom­in­ee/‘88 GOV can­did­ate/in­dus­tri­al­ist John Raese (R) in the WV SEN con­test.

Pal­in: “The last thing Wash­ing­ton, DC needs is an­oth­er rub­ber-stamp vote for Pres­id­ent Obama and the lib­er­al agenda. John Raese has the cour­age and in­de­pend­ence to stand up to the Wash­ing­ton polit­ics of Re­id and Pelosi.”

In her Face­book post. Pal­in wrote that after “an­oth­er great week of travel across our coun­try” she is see­ing a grow­ing “com­mon­sense grass­roots move­ment” tak­ing root — one that she is help­ing to seed. In ad­di­tion to Raese, Pal­in en­dorsed eight GOP House can­did­ates from MI, VA, AZ, GA, MI and UT (Fal­cone, “The Note,” 10/11).

Wel­come to the age of volat­il­ity.

In polit­ics and eco­nom­ics — the driv­ing forces in Wash­ing­ton — 2012 dawns with more in­stabil­ity and chaos than any year I can re­mem­ber.

Polit­ic­ally, the com­ing elec­tion could shift con­trol of all three levers of power. Pres­id­ent Obama could lose. So could House Re­pub­lic­ans. So could Sen­ate Demo­crats. In­stead of re­pu­di­at­ing one party, as they did in 2006, 2008, and 2010, voters could re­wire this power grid — shock­ing the sur­viv­ors and newly em­powered.  

Eco­nom­ic­ally, pro­spects for job growth have im­proved, but the specter of a European fin­an­cial melt­down, signs of con­trac­tion in Asia and South Amer­ica, and high­er do­mest­ic gas­ol­ine prices all threaten the an­em­ic re­cov­ery. These are known risks. Each will in­tensi­fy if Ir­an makes good on threats to close the Strait of Hor­muz (through which 20 per­cent of all glob­ally traded crude flows).
Con­gress, then, must con­front what it least de­sires in an elec­tion year: in­stabil­ity and volat­il­ity. Throw in pub­lic an­ger (Con­gress’s ap­prov­al rat­ing av­er­aged 10 per­cent in the last 10 na­tion­al polls) and you get vul­ner­ab­il­ity. In­stabil­ity, volat­il­ity, and vul­ner­ab­il­ity make politi­cians nervous, edgy, fear­ful, and mean. Yes, I know. Con­gress is like that most of the time. But this year could set new lows for jumpy, ill-mannered par­tis­an fe­ro­city.

In this tox­ic at­mo­sphere, five mat­ters hang over the second ses­sion of the 112th Con­gress. How they are dealt with, it seems to me, will de­cide the fate of the ma­jor­ity parties and could con­trib­ute migh­tily to the out­come of the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

1. The Boehner-Can­tor feud. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the fate of the House GOP ma­jor­ity rides on this be­ing re­solved. I don’t mean totally re­solved, I mean re­solved to the point where Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., con­vey unity of pur­pose that not only passes pub­lic scru­tiny but cre­ates mo­mentum among House Re­pub­lic­ans. I down­played this feud for a year, know­ing that lead­er­ship rival­ries are com­mon but rarely cor­ros­ive. This one isn’t cor­ros­ive — yet. But it is a dis­trac­tion up and down the lead­er­ship lad­der, among the rank and file, and with GOP-lean­ing out­side groups. Boehner and Can­tor don’t need to love or even like each oth­er. But they need to func­tion pub­licly as a team. That means stand­ing to­geth­er when the news is good and bad. Boehner doesn’t de­mand this and Can­tor doesn’t vo­lun­teer it. This is the duel with­in the duel. Someone has to change. If not, the cracks will widen and sides will be taken. And Demo­crats, who have been pok­ing this fes­ter­ing sore for 12 months, will de­lightedly ex­ploit the breach.

2. The Key­stone XL pipeline. Since los­ing the first round of the payroll-tax cut ex­ten­sion de­bate to Obama in Decem­ber, Re­pub­lic­ans have said al­most noth­ing about the com­ing clash over how to off­set the costs of that tax cut, the Medi­care “doc fix,” and ex­tend­ing un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits. In­stead, Re­pub­lic­ans have fo­cused all their at­ten­tion on for­cing Obama to green-light the Key­stone XL pipeline. That sug­gests Re­pub­lic­ans will deal on the spend­ing cuts, and if they can, “win” on the pipeline. The White House is play­ing foot­sie with all man­ner of Key­stone pro­ced­ur­al delays, try­ing to smoke out spend­ing-cut con­ces­sions from the GOP. The out­come will set all power para­met­ers for the re­mainder of the year.

3. Europe’s debt crisis. If a 17-na­tion eco­nom­ic zone col­lapses and the world’s largest and most power­ful eco­nomy does noth­ing, do we live in a glob­al eco­nomy? That ques­tion merges eco­nom­ics and meta­phys­ics, but it’s still val­id — if a bit cum­ber­some. Greece is likely to de­fault in March when 14.5 bil­lion euros in debt comes due. Italy sold 4.5 bil­lion euros in bonds on Fri­day, a pos­it­ive sign. But its debt-to-gross do­mest­ic product ra­tio is 120 per­cent, sur­passed only by Greece. Italy is not out of the woods. In­vestors are liv­ing on hope — which isn’t a strategy in war or fin­ance. If pan­ic sets in, the European eco­nomy could go from weak to co­matose in months. Would Amer­ica do any­thing? Would any­one in Con­gress sug­gest us­ing tax­pay­er money to give the In­ter­na­tion­al Mon­et­ary Fund more cash to prop up the European Cent­ral Bank? This is not an idle ques­tion. Is any­one even think­ing of an an­swer?

4. Sum­mer gas prices. Gov­ern­ment and private-sec­tor ana­lysts pre­dict gas prices will reach an av­er­age of $3.95 per gal­lon in May. In ma­jor urb­an areas, prices could eas­ily ex­ceed $4.50 and pos­sibly reach $5. That will fuel no end of con­gres­sion­al out­rage. But will it change policy or just harden the par­tis­an di­vide over en­ergy ex­plor­a­tion versus en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion? In the heat of a reelec­tion cam­paign, Obama might have to deal. What kind of bar­gain would Re­pub­lic­ans drive?

5. Con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­an sup­port for the GOP nom­in­ee. This isn’t 1996 and (vir­tu­al nom­in­ee) Mitt Rom­ney isn’t former Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Bob Dole, R-Kan. Re­pub­lic­ans then watched Pres­id­ent Clin­ton sign wel­fare re­form with glee. They knew they were killing Dole’s cam­paign by tak­ing a huge is­sue off the table. They did it to save them­selves be­cause they knew Dole couldn’t win. Rom­ney can and will run stronger than Dole. Does he be­come the de facto le­gis­lat­ive strategist on Cap­it­ol Hill? How will the “Mas­sachu­setts mod­er­ate” tame or even deal with the Hill tea parti­ers who may view him with skep­ti­cism and, pos­sibly, de­ri­sion? If the former gov­ernor starts gear­ing up on the Key­stone is­sue, you’ll have a par­tial an­swer — and some in­sight in­to is­sue No. 4.

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