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First Thoughts: Who wins (and loses) if Palin runs

Who wins if Palin runs: Romney and Obama… Who loses: Pawlenty and Huntsman… Does Palin moving to AZ raise Team Obama’s chances of being able to play in the state in 2012?... A reality check: Palin’s polarizing poll numbers… Libya and the G8… Wrapping up yesterday’s Senate budget votes… Dems continue to talk up NY-26… Biden brings up bin Laden in NH… Obama’s turnaround in FL?... And Newt and T-Paw are in NH, while Romney’s in IL and Bachmann is scheduled to be in IA.

*** Who wins (and who loses) if Palin runs: By now, you’ve probably heard about the increasing signs that Sarah Palin might run for president after all. A new two-hour movie about her record as Alaska governor will premiere in Iowa next month; she’s bought a home in Scottsdale, AZ; and she’s hired back two top aides. What’s more, the New York Times says, Palin “is expected to resume a schedule of public appearances soon — perhaps as early as this weekend — to raise her profile at a moment when the Republican presidential field appears to be taking final form.” While we’re still unsure she actually runs (it could simply be a gambit to get into the political spotlight), a Palin bid would have a profound effect on the rest of the field. For starters, it would benefit the slight front-runner Mitt Romney, because Palin would take attention away from other challengers (like Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman). It also would probably unite the GOP establishment around Romney.

*** Raising Arizona? So the happiest person about this Palin news is Romney. The second happiest? Well, that would be Team Obama. In fact, if there is one state Plouffe/Messina/Axelrod would like her to move to, it’s Arizona -- which would remind voters there about Palin’s controversial “blood libel” remarks after the Giffords shooting, versus the president’s own Tucson speech. Make no mistake: Arizona would be a tough state for Obama in 2012 (example: the Justice Department’s suit against the state’s immigration law). But if Palin becomes the face of the Republican Party in the state, it won’t hurt Team Obama to play there. They've been looking for a way to rally their base in Arizona to begin organizing the state, and Palin hands them an easy opportunity.  

*** Palin’s polarizing numbers: A final point about a Palin bid: She has an awful lot of hurdles to overcome to reach the White House. Our April NBC/WSJ poll found her with a 25%-53% fav/unfav score, with just 9% viewing her VERY POSITIVELY (her lowest number here ever in the poll) and with 41% viewing her VERY NEGATIVELY (her highest number here). In addition, her fav/unfav among independents is 19%-54%, while it’s 48%-25% among Republicans, 63%-7% among Tea Party supporters, and 6%-83% among Democrats. In other words, she’s adored by conservatives, but not by anyone else. But check that last number on Republicans on more time: One in four REPUBLICANS have an unfavorable view of her. That's not just a hurdle; it's a potential roadblock.

*** Libya and the G8: Overseas at the G8, which begins today in France, perhaps the biggest news behind the scenes is the (slight) push by Sarkozy and Cameron to have the U.S. play a larger military role in Libya. But here’s the White House’s position: They are doing everything they said they WOULD do from the get-go. To go any further and to ramp up the U.S. role in the military effort would then mean the White House would need authorization from Congress. To be clear, for the role the U.S. is playing NOW in Libya, the White House believes they do NOT need a legal authorization from Congress. But if the military piece got bigger, then it's unclear. And consider this: Do congressional leaders want to have this vote? While Obama, Boehner, Reid, and McConnell could probably get an authorization passed through Congress, none of them wants to deal with that right now. And it comes as a growing number in Congress -- think Sen. Jim Webb -- believe the legislative branch is ceding its role on military matters to the executive branch. As the Times writes, “Several lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday accused President Obama of violating the War Powers Resolution by continuing American participation in NATO’s air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, but they struggled with the question of what Congress can or should do about it.”

*** Budget battles: One day after the NY-26 special election, where the Ryan budget plan was an issue, the Senate yesterday rejected that very plan by a 40-57 vote, NBC’s Libby Leist notes. Five Senate Republicans voted against the measure: Scott Brown, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Olympia Snowe. In a separate vote, the Senate rejected President Obama's budget, 0-97. (Democrats say they voted against it, because Obama himself has moved past the budget and called for more cuts.) Leist adds that the chamber also voted down GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s budget (by 42-55), as well as GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s budget (7-90). Regarding the Ryan vote, there weren’t any big surprises: Dick Lugar voted for it (given his GOP primary), while Brown (who potentially faces a competitive re-election fight) voted against it.

*** Dems continue to talk up NY-26: Speaking of the NY-26 race, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel appeared on Meet the Press’ weekly “Press Pass,” and he said the result made 97 GOP members lose some sleep that night. Israel and DSCC Chair Patty Murray hold a pen-and-pad session at 10:15 am ET to spin that special-election victory. 

*** Biden brings up OBL in NH: Don’t miss what Vice President Biden said about Obama and 2012 at a New Hampshire Democratic dinner last night. The New Hampshire Union Leader: “The 2012 election is about the future and about restoring the American dream, which is why Biden said he partnered with Obama in 2008. It is about strength in leadership, according to Biden, describing Obama as a leader with a backbone.  Americans watched as Obama executed what he called the ‘boldest undertaking of a single event in modern history,’ referring to Osama bin Laden's death.  With his future on the line, Obama didn't hesitate, said Biden. ‘And, that was the last piece of the puzzle that had to be put in place,’ added the vice president.”

*** Obama’s turnaround in FL? Perhaps it’s a sign of Obama’s bin Laden bounce -- or the fact how fickle polls in the Sunshine State can be -- but a new Quinnipiac Florida poll has the president with a 51% approval rating in the state (up from 44% in April), and it has 50% saying he deserves re-election (vs. 42% a month ago).

*** On the 2012 trail: Gingrich and Pawlenty are in New Hampshire… Romney discusses jobs and the economy in Chicago, IL… And Bachmann is scheduled to address the Polk County (IA) GOP (but the Patriot Act votes might complicate her schedule).

Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 79 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 110 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 166 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 256 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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