In a story about the Republican movers and shakers in the early primary states, Politico notes that Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina paid former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the highest compliment one Republican can pay another.
“We’ve never spoken, but she left me a nice message, and I believe she’s done more for the Republican Party than anyone since Ronald Reagan,” he said.
The comparison of Palin to Reagan, while it makes some peoples’ eyes roll, is potent inside the Republican Party. Reagan, to Republicans, is like FDR and JFK are to Democrats, but with the twist that he actually accomplished things. Unlike FDR, Reagan helped to turn around a sick economy. Unlike JFK, Reagan won the Cold War. The presidency of Ronald Reagan is sometimes remembered with all of the heady nostalgia of the Age of King Arthur.
In some ways, Sarah Palin does resemble Ronald Reagan. She is a former governor, a media star, a charismatic leader with a fervent following, and despised by the left as well as the establishment of her own party. While she is intelligent and well-read, like Reagan, she is often accused of being an ignoramus, also like Reagan.
If Palin were to run in 2012, she would face a sitting President who is often compared to the hapless Jimmy Carter. The parallels, therefore, could not be more exquisite.
DeMint had supported Mitt Romney in 2008, but has not made a commitment for 2012. DeMint is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for president in his own right. But if he declines to run, Jim DeMint might be positioned to be a running mate for either Palin, Romney, or Tim Pawlenty. The logic of regional balance points in that direction.
Also, when a former governor runs for president, he will often choose a senator or some other Washington insider to, if elected, advise him on the wicked ways of inside the beltway, the better to master such and advance an agenda. Bush 43 had Cheney. Clinton had Al Gore. Reagan had Bush 41. Carter had Walter Mondale.
A Palin/DeMint ticket would be a potent one, harnessing together two Tea Party favorites. The one disadvantage is that neither politician had an in with moderates or independents, though such can be acquired during the campaign.
Jim DeMint is currently 59. If a Palin/DeMint ticket won in 2012 and was reelected in 2016, DeMint would be 69 in the 2020 election campaign, the exact age of Ronald Reagan when he ran and won in 1980. That too is a parallel that will not escape notice.
Source: Courting begins in 2012 early states, Jake Sherman and Manu Raju, Politico, December 29th, 2010