Though former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin would not tell Oprah Winfrey if she's considering a run for president
in 2012, former Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says Palin will "be very competitive for the nomination of
the Republican Party."
McCain talked about Palin when answering questions last week at the opening of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's archives at the University of Louisville.
An exclusive WHAS11/Survey USA poll of adults in the WHAS11 viewing area finds a relatively tepid response to Palin, one year
removed from her electoral defeat. Palin garnered a 36% favorability rating versus 35% unfavorable in Kentuckiana. Perhaps
even more remarkable was the combined 29% that said they were either neutral or had no opinion.
Palin finished behind Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney in preferred presidential candidates in the poll. And, a full 70% of those
polled said they would advise her not to run for President.
Palin did best President Obama in one poll question. 46% of respondents said they would prefer to go hunting with Palin. 39%
expressed a preference for an Obama hunting trip.
Virtually unknown in the lower 48 before McCain tabbed her for VP, Palin is now asserting herself as the voice of
conservatism in America. She recently derailed a liberal Republican's congressional campaign in New York by endorsing
a third party conservative candidate.
WHAS11's Joe Arnold asked McCain about this divide in the Republican Party, the Sarah Palin wing that he, in effect, launched.
"You know I'm always deeply grateful for the liberal left's lamentations about the state of our party," McCain laughed.
"You know the fact is that there is open and vigoruous and healthy debate within our party on a variety of issues," he continued.
McCain says independents are tilting Republican, as seen in recent GOP wins for the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey.
"There are candidates in certain regions which may not be sailable in other regions," McCain explained, "We have got to be
a national party. And we have got to embrace people who share our common philosophy and may disagree on a specific issue."
But J. Scott Jennings, a leading Republican strategist in Kentucky and former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, says
voices like Palin's, the vocal crowds in both the "tea party" movement and health care town halls serve to make demands of Republican candidates.
"Forcing candidates to not just think about conservative values, but talk about conservative values, to talk about what's
on the minds of voters," Jennings said, Such as "spending, out of control government, government controlled health care, cap and trade, judicial appointments."
And, the nation's top elected Republican, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, says a recent Gallup poll shows Republicans are gaining
"If the election were held today, would you be more likely to vote for a Democrat or a Republican?" McConnell explained the
poll results, "Republicans were up by four. Amnong independents, we were up 22. Now compare that to last November,
last November, we were down 12."
McCain chimed in... "Yes I remember."
"We've got candidates coming out of the woodwork," McConnell said.
But for the 2012 Presidential race, don't count Sarah Palin in, just yet.
"It's not on my radar screen right now," Palin told Oprah Winfrey, but she acknowledged her growing role in conservative
politics, adding "You don't need a title to make a difference."
Asked if Palin is a new leader in the Republican party for that wing, McCain replied, "Oh I think we have a lot of leaders.
I think we could go down the list, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindall, I leave out one and they say 'ah you left out
one.' There's Huckabee, Romney. There's so many out there that I think are good voices for our party. I have the greatest
affection for Sarah Palin and her husband Todd who I think are wonderful people. And I think she'll be very competitive
for the nomination of the Republican Party, but that does not mean we haven't got a lot of good strong voices out there."
In Kentucky's U-S Senate race, both establishment pick Trey Grayson and the more libertarian minded Dr. Rand Paul both
claim to be the real Republican.
And WHAS11 News has learned that the Paul campaign has made overtures to Sarah Palin for her to campaign for him.
"I think Republican primary voters are unhappy with what they've sometimes gotten from their leadership," Paul told WHAS11
News, "You see these Tea Parties, how big they are in Louisville, there's an unrest, a dissent with what we're getting
out of Washington."
Meanwhile, Grayson scoffs at Paul's Republican credentials.
"I actually helped to write the platform," Grayson said, "The irony of him calling himself the real Republican...
I was in leadership on the platform committee last year. And that platform has been called one of the most conservative
platforms in the history of our party."