Notice how so much political reporting these days about the future of the Republican Party is about the God Gap between religious conservatives and the rest of the party? Much of it hinges on the fact that Sarah Palin has become the movement’s new political face. The New York Times reports today that conservatives are already discussing her future political prospects should the McCain-Palin ticket be defeated next Tuesday (The Times says it’s “conservatives” who are excited about Palin, but the paper is basically writing about social conservatives):
Whether the Republican presidential ticket wins or loses on Tuesday, a group of prominent conservatives are planning to meet the next day to discuss the way forward, and whatever the outcome, Gov. Sarah Palin will be high on the agenda.
Ms. Palin, of Alaska, has had a rocky time since being named as Senator John McCain’s running mate, but to many conservatives her future remains bright. If Mr. McCain wins, she will give the social conservative movement a seat inside the White House. If he loses, she could emerge as a standard bearer for the movement and a potential presidential candidate in 2012, albeit one who will need to address her considerable political damage.
Her prospects, in or out of government, are the subject of intensive conversations among conservative leaders, including the group that will meet next Wednesday in rural Virginia to weigh social, foreign policy and economic issues, as well as the political landscape and the next presidential election.
Ms. Palin’s aides insist that winning this time around is her sole objective. But there are signs that she, too, is making sure that she is well positioned for the future if she and Mr. McCain lose.
The 2012 Republican primary could be waged on winning religious conservatives than the ’08 GOP primary was, with Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee vying to become the movement’s political standard bearer.