Palin Still Popular

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And she's still popular! Some think very soon to be former Governor Sarah Palin could be eyeing a run for the White House in 2012. If so, a new Gallup poll is good news for the governor. In a poll of Republicans and right-leaning independents, 72 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of Governor Palin. That being said, when given six choices of possible presidential candidates, Governor Palin comes in second, with 21 percent listing her as the top choice. In first place, according to the poll, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Joining us live is Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. Good evening, Byron. And boy, it's fun to look at these -- play with these numbers, isn't it, as we watch this board game of politics.

BYRON YORK, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes, we're only three years shy of the 2012 Republican convention, but -- yes, it's good news for Mitt Romney in the sense that the Republican Party has often in the past nominated the guy who finished second the time before. But Palin's 72 percent favorable rating is very good, and you have to remember this poll was taken about a week after she announced her resignation. So it kind of indicates, at least among Republican and those right-leaning independents, that didn't do her any damage.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, which would you prefer to be -- have, if you were running for office? Would you prefer to have a 72 percent favorable among -- 72 percent favorable and a 21 percent preference against Romney's, which is 56 percent favorable and a 26 on the preference? Which would you rather have?

YORK: Well, there's two ways to look at it. One, you got to win the Republican nomination to begin with, and so having a higher rating within the party is a good thing. But also in that same Gallup poll, they polled the public as a whole, and Palin had about a 1-to-1 favorable-to- unfavorable rating, meaning that for every person who had a favorable impression of her, there was somebody else who had an unfavorable impression.

And you've seen those numbers with people like Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich in the past. It makes it hard to win a general election. So it does indicate that there's a certain divisiveness around her, even though she's really popular with the Republican base.

VAN SUSTEREN: Am I wrong that these numbers are pretty much consistent for Romney and Palin and Huckabee, but that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is sort of inching up?

YORK: He is. You know, he's maintained a high profile for quite a while. He's had a lot to say about health care reform, about the stimulus, about a lot of these things going on in Washington now. He travels around. He's definitely a presence there. And he clearly decided not to make the run in 2008 but may, indeed, be preparing for '12, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And he certainly has grabbed the catchy slogan -- solutions. He talks about solutions wherever he goes. That's one of his signature programs. That's not -- that's not a bad -- bad word to use if you're looking to be president of the United States, maybe.

YORK: No. His group -- the group he founded after leaving office was Solutions for America. And he did a lot of it, actually, in 2008 but decided not to run. So he could definitely be a contender here. But right now, you know, the star of the party is, indeed, Palin. I mean, there are -- probably every Republican Party in every state in America would like to have her come to their state to go to a fund-raiser. So she is really sucking up a lot of the oxygen in the Republican field right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you mentioned that at the Iowa -- Iowa Republican Party has already invited her to headline their annual Reagan dinner. Is that -- I mean, Iowa is -- of course, which is where the caucus is and -- is that a huge tipping of the hat, or is that inconsequential that -- that they've asked her first?

YORK: It is not at all inconsequential. It is obviously the first caucus state. There are a lot of social conservative Republicans who play a very important role in that. I was in South Carolina last week, talked with the former head of the state party down there, and he said they've been trying very hard in May to get her to their big fund-raising dinner, thought they had an agreement, but it just couldn't -- didn't go through because she was too tied down in Alaska. But he said, you know, That would have been huge for us. It would have been huge. And there are a lot of other state party chairmen who would love to have her come to local fund- raising dinners.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mention social conservatives. She certainly is very popular among them. Former governor Mitt Romney, of course, had that debate with Senator Kennedy in the early '90s, which probably was not appealing to the social conservatives. Is that sort of -- is that (INAUDIBLE) sort of be the dividing factor in 2012, is the social conservatives?

YORK: Well, it certainly could be. I mean, you have to remember, on the flip side, Romney had a lot of credibility on the economy issue. And certainly, after -- after the economy collapsed last fall before the election, there was a certain amount of buyers' remorse among people in the Republican base who didn't really love John McCain that much anyway that perhaps Romney would have been a more credible candidate, given those circumstances. But as far as social conservatives go, there were social conservatives, especially in Iowa, who thought of Romney as a late convert. Some thought of him as a phony who had changed his position on especially the issue of life. And for those people, Palin is a hugely attractive candidate.

VAN SUSTEREN: Byron, thank you.

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