A Long Night For Sarah Palin

We are either going to know early this evening whether Republicans will take control of the U. S. Senate, or we are going to know very late. Either way, it looks like a long night ahead for Sarah Palin.

A Republican takeover of the House of Representatives is a foregone conclusion. The only suspense is in the magnitude of the GOP wave, and whether any big-name, veteran Democrats might be caught in the undertow.

The Senate gavel, however, is likely to stay in Democratic hands. Republicans would pretty much have to run the table, with victories in nearly every competitive race, to pick up the net gain of 10 seats they need to get a Senate majority. Such a sweep is not inconceivable – in fact, it happened on a smaller scale in 2006 when Democrats retook the majority – but it is a long shot.

Palin had a big hand in making it a long shot. She is already on the outs with large elements of the party leadership, and it will be interesting to see whether rank-and-file Republicans, who will select the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, become less enamored of her if she is blamed for the party falling one or two seats short of a Senate victory tonight.

To win the Senate, Republicans must defend seven seats their party already holds in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Palin’s home state of Alaska. They also have to win several Democratic seats where they are expected to have easy victories, including North Dakota, Arkansas and Indiana. All of this, except possibly for Alaska, appears well within the GOP’s reach.

Assuming the Republicans win all these races, they then need to pick up seven out of eight competitive races for Democrat-held seats. Those are in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, California and Washington.

Two of those races are in the Eastern time zone. If the Democrats win Pennsylvania and West Virginia, they will keep their Senate majority. It’s that simple.

Assuming Republicans win at least one of those Appalachian states, we can turn our attention to the Midwest races in Illinois and Wisconsin. A second Democratic victory there would clinch the Senate.

If a GOP winning streak makes it past the nation’s midsection, we will have a late night as we await results from Colorado in the Mountain time zone, and the Pacific races in Nevada, California and Washington. Recent polls have tended to favor Democrats in the latter two states, so it will take a late surge by the Republicans there, and a sweep nearly everywhere else, to flip the Senate.

It did not need to be so difficult for the GOP. The Delaware seat formerly held by Vice President Joe Biden seemed likely to go to Republican Rep. Mike Castle before a Palin-backed candidate, Christine O’Donnell, upset Castle in a primary. O’Donnell’s candidacy proved to be every bit the disaster that Republican insiders predicted. Democrats seem nearly certain to hold that seat.

An even bigger Republican train wreck looms in Alaska. A comatose Republican is usually able to beat any Democrat in statewide elections there. This time, however, there are two comatose Republicans in the race. Incumbent Lisa Murkowski was knocked out by Palin-backed insurgent Joe Miller in the primary, but is running as a write-in candidate. Miller, meanwhile, imploded in his attempts to sidestep questions over his use of government-owned computers for political purposes. The bedlam has created an opening for Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee.

Palin has blamed the media for undermining Miller. The bottom line, however, is that a longstanding feud between Palin and Murkowski may be what comes between her party and Senate control. This is entirely in keeping with the style that has made Palin the Calamity Jane of Republican politics.

Palin unquestionably has a loyal following among many voters in the GOP’s conservative base. Her endorsement can help a candidate win a party primary, and it can help in a general election in a right-leaning House district, or even in some rural Southern states.

But Palin has little appeal to the independent voters who are otherwise breaking so well for the Republicans in today’s election. She also does not get along well with others, as her endless quarrels with everyone from John McCain’s presidential campaign staff to her daughter’s ex-beau amply demonstrate. These are not helpful traits for aspirants to national office.

Palin is apparently looking to parlay punditry and power-broking into a place atop the Republican ticket in 2012. It is a remarkable ambition for someone who was unknown to most of America before the summer of 2008, particularly someone who walked out in mid-term from the highest position she has ever held. Of course, we recently elected a president who was unknown to most of the country just four years earlier.

I suspect President Obama would single-handedly nominate Palin to be his next opponent if he could. In the end, that very notion might be enough to stop the GOP from choosing her, though I doubt it.

Still, it is one thing to go from anonymity to acclaim, as Obama did, and another to maintain that acclaim through four years in the public eye – as Obama is finding out.

Tonight may be the night Palin begins to learn the same lesson.

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About Larry M. Elkin 564 Articles

Affiliation: Palisades Hudson Financial Group

Larry M. Elkin, CPA, CFP®, has provided personal financial and tax counseling to a sophisticated client base since 1986. After six years with Arthur Andersen, where he was a senior manager for personal financial planning and family wealth planning, he founded his own firm in Hastings on Hudson, New York in 1992. That firm grew steadily and became the Palisades Hudson organization, which moved to Scarsdale, New York in 2002. The firm expanded to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2005, and to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2008.

Larry received his B.A. in journalism from the University of Montana in 1978, and his M.B.A. in accounting from New York University in 1986. Larry was a reporter and editor for The Associated Press from 1978 to 1986. He covered government, business and legal affairs for the wire service, with assignments in Helena, Montana; Albany, New York; Washington, D.C.; and New York City’s federal courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Larry established the organization’s investment advisory business, which now manages more than $800 million, in 1997. As president of Palisades Hudson, Larry maintains individual professional relationships with many of the firm’s clients, who reside in more than 25 states from Maine to California as well as in several foreign countries. He is the author of Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples (Currency Doubleday, 1995), which was the first comprehensive financial planning guide for unmarried couples. He also is the editor and publisher of Sentinel, a quarterly newsletter on personal financial planning.

Larry has written many Sentinel articles, including several that anticipated future events. In “The Economic Case Against Tobacco Stocks” (February 1995), he forecast that litigation losses would eventually undermine cigarette manufacturers’ financial position. He concluded in “Is This the Beginning Of The End?” (May 1998) that there was a better-than-even chance that estate taxes would be repealed by 2010, three years before Congress enacted legislation to repeal the tax in 2010. In “IRS Takes A Shot At Split-Dollar Life” (June 1996), Larry predicted that the IRS would be able to treat split dollar arrangements as below-market loans, which came to pass with new rules issued by the Service in 2001 and 2002.

More recently, Larry has addressed the causes and consequences of the “Panic of 2008″ in his Sentinel articles. In “Have We Learned Our Lending Lesson At Last” (October 2007) and “Mortgage Lending Lessons Remain Unlearned” (October 2008), Larry questioned whether or not America has learned any lessons from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. In addition, he offered some practical changes that should have been made to amend the situation. In “Take Advantage Of The Panic Of 2008” (January 2009), Larry offered ways to capitalize on the wealth of opportunity that the panic presented.

Larry served as president of the Estate Planning Council of New York City, Inc., in 2005-2006. In 2009 the Council presented Larry with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, citing his service to the organization and “his tireless efforts in promoting our industry by word and by personal example as a consummate estate planning professional.” He is regularly interviewed by national and regional publications, and has made nearly 100 radio and television appearances.

Visit: Palisades Hudson

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