Ups, downs for White House of a Palin candidacy

Sarah Palin begins a bus tour Sunday that has all the trappings of a presidential campaign.

If the former GOP vice presidential nominee and Alaska governor actually does enter the GOP fray, would the White House worry, or quietly celebrate?

"They do come pretty close to saying they'd love to see Sarah Palin be the (Presidential) nominee," CBS News political analyst John Dickerson observed to "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Russ Mitchell. "And why would they love that? Well, because she, among voters, is unpopular. And also, particularly among independent voters, she's quite unpopular, (with) 70 percent saying they wouldn't vote for her. They also had serious qualms about her qualifications for office.

But, Dickerson added, "If (President Obama's re-election campaign is) cocky about Sarah Palin being the nominee, they have to worry about her getting in the race at all because, what could happen is, while she might not get the nomination, her entrance into the race would create a lot of interest in the Republican field, and a lot of voters would be watching these debates and things and, while they may not sign up with Sarah Palin, they might see another candidate, (for example) Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney and think, 'Wow, maybe they'd make a good president.' And that's not something they'd like to see."

There are also, Dickerson pointed out, GOP candidates who concern the White House.

"You can," he noted, "tell pretty much who worries the White house by who they target. Now, targeting doesn't necessarily mean they're critical. In fact the White House does it by killing them with kindness. They talk about Mitt Romney's plan for health care in Massachusetts, how that was a model for the Obama effort. Well, that's poison inside the Republican race, where they attack Romney for his health care plan in Massachusetts. And they do the same thing with Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to China, ambassador under President Obama. They said he did a great job and that, of course, is also problematic for Huntsman within the Republican race, because the Republicans wonder what he was doing working for President Obama. So, those are two who worry the president, and (cause concern) at the White House."

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney are expected to officially toss their hats into the GOP ring over the next few days, but Dickerson told Mitchell the announcement this week of Palin's bus tour had little, if any impact on the timing.

"They were moving toward making an announcement,' Dickerson said, "so the dates of their actual announcements probably were fixed. There's no evidence that Palin changed them. But the announcement of the announcement for those candidates, at least in Mitt Romney's case, he announced that next week in New Hampshire, he'll make it official. That came on the heels of the Palin news. One of the reasons they string out these announcements is so that they can jump into the news cycle when they need to. Romney was able to do that right after the Palin news, so he was a part of the conversation."

Palin, says Dickerson, has time to make her decision. "She can continue this dance where is she or isn't she getting in the race? She's got till the fall. So she can go out there, test the waters, continue to talk about the things that interest her, and if she decides in the end not to run, she hasn't hurt her brand, which is only burnished by getting out there and meeting with the folks who love her so much."

Mitchell referred to one poll in which former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was running first, even though he/s not even in the race.

That, Dickerson remarked, "says the story line continues. Which is that a lot of Republicans are not happy with the current field. Rudy Giuliani is not particularly running. He's not in a lot of polls. He had a rather disastrous race last time, in 2008. He started at the top of the polls and then went straight down. But what it shows is that, in an Associated Press poll recently, forty-five percent of Republicans said they weren't happy with the current field. And so this unfocused unhappiness kind of attaches to whoever is out there, even if those people aren't necessarily running."

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