The closest thing the GOP has to a Dole or a Gingrich is Sarah Palin, whose interests and messages frequently diverge from those of the Republican Party and who polls very poorly among the broader populace.
Perhaps the idea that you need a leader to deliver your message is outdated in an age when Fox News and other outlets that are willing to create and push the message on their own. But I rather doubt it, particularly as Obama's brand remains surprisingly strong and the Republican brand surprisingly weak despite the results of the 2010 election. One reason for that strength, I think, is the absence of a viable alternative.
This has Jennifer Rubin miffed:
Ezra does not point to any empirical or anecdotal evidence to support this assertion. Indeed, recent events suggest otherwise. Her advice was not heeded on the tax deal. Her numbers are sinking as a potential 2012 candidate. ...
So who but liberal elites, who pine for a ready made target (in precisely the same way they defined Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the GOP after Obama's election), consider Palin the voice of the right?
Yes, what Republicans (aside from, according to Gallup, Republicans as a whole) consider Palin the voice of the right? Well, there's Jennifer Rubin just last August:
Palin has proved by example that a woman politician need not spout the pro-big government, pro-abortion, pro-welfare-state line. “Ms. Palin has spent much of 2010 burnishing her political bona fides and extending her influence by way of the Mama Grizzlies, a gang of Sarah- approved, maverick-y female politicians looking to ‘take back’ America with ‘common-sense’ solutions.” She sure did, and she proved herself to be the most effective female politician in the country. Sorry, Hillary — while you have been playing errand girl for the Obama foreign-policy train wreck, Palin has ascended to the throne. ...
Palin not only trumped the left on style but she also managed to connect on nearly every issue — ObamaCare, bailouts, Israel, taxes, American exceptionalism, and the stimulus plan — in a way the president and his liberal supporters could not. For all of her supposed lack of “policy muscle,” it was she who defined the debate on ObamaCare and she who synced up with the Tea Party’s small-government, personal-responsibility, anti-tax-hike message. Who’s short on policy muscle — the White House or Palin?
and in her infamous "why the Jews hate Palin" treatise last January:
For her conservative admirers, she continues to exemplify independence, moxie, common sense, the superiority of the common American over the nation’s elites, and the embodiment of modern womanhood and Christian faith.
Palin knows what to look for in candidates because she is in sync with the center-right zeitgeist. If she knows what the country is about and what makes it successful, the argument would go, she might possess, as Dickerson explains, “a special light to guide the country out of the muck.” (This was the secret to Ronald Reagan, by the way. It didn’t matter what the issue was — he would get it “right” because he instinctively understood the superiority of free markets, the destiny of America, and the character of his fellow citizens. Yes, all caveats apply, and Palin is not Reagan.)
It’s not clear whether Palin will run in 2012 or could even win the nomination, but her potential opponents and the media underestimate her at their peril. And if she doesn’t win, whichever Republican does would be crazy not to take her counsel and guidance. The lady knows a thing or two about how to win races.
and in September of 2008:
Palin has energized the GOP base, driven women and independent voters into McCain’s camp, and flummoxed the MSM, but her greatest accomplishment has been to unveil the Democrats’ true liability.
That basic liability has nothing to do with the fact that they are ultra-liberals and lack credibility on national security issues. Their biggest problem is that they have never led, never managed, never navigated during a crisis, and as a result never demonstrated calm under fire. It is one thing for the GOP candidates to state that in a speech — as many did at the Republican National Convention — but it is quite another to see it being played out before your very eyes.
Like water dumped on the Wicked Witch of the West, Palin’s popularity has melted the façade of professional competence and personal stability which cloaked her opponents’ weaknesses.
Now, I realize all those comments are a few months old. During (and in the wake of) the 2008 election, Republicans considered Palin a rising star and likely candidate, and devoted their energy to touting her credentials. In recent months, Palin's polling numbers among the general electorate have plunged to terrifying levels, and Republicans now realize they desperately need to stop her from getting the nomination.
Still, it's just a little soon for Rubin to turn around and accuse anybody who deems Palin a Republican leader to be perpetuating a liberal plot.