Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joked about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s place on Time’s list of influential people, saying, “But was that the issue on the most beautiful people or the most influential people?”
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” broadcast Sunday, Romney was responding to a question from the moderator as to whether Time’s inclusion of Palin and talk show host Rush Limbaugh on their list of “The World’s Most Influential People” was a positive or negative thing for the Republican Party.
Romney added, “I think there are a lot more influential Republicans than that would suggest.”
After his boss caught flak for his apparent dissing of Palin, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom spun the comment as just “a self-deprecating joke as to why there weren’t more Republicans on the list,” according to a report in Politico.
“I think there are 100 influential Republicans alone who have tremendous ideas and I hope that we can all work together to accomplish what we believe is best for America,” Palin said through a spokeswoman.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted recently among 429 Republicans showed Sarah Palin with a slight edge over Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney as the preferred GOP nominee for 2012: Palin 29 percent; former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee 26 percent; and Romney 21 percent.
According to the Politico report, Romney’s comments were unusually sharp – since these days GOP top officials ordinarily simply ignore Palin, leaving her off the rosters of the party’s rising stars – despite poll results such as the CNN survey cited above.
Romney let fly the zinger while appearing with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. Both are part of a cabal of prominent Republicans seeking to enliven the GOP under the banner of the National Council for a New America.
Palin has thus far not been included on the Council -- reportedly because she didn’t respond to requests. However, her former running mate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went on the record recently saying that he hoped she would become active with the group.
Meanwhile, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush closed ranks with Romney and Cantor in presiding over the panel.
According to a Boston Globe report, Romney touted his service on the panel over the weekend, saying, “I’ve learned that when you sit in a position of responsibility as you do now and as we did once, you typically get the best ideas that really make a difference from people that you’re serving.” He cited his experience helping pass the Bay State’s universal healthcare plan.
But nothing Romney said at the conclave attracted the media attention more than his off-the- cuff Palin remarks to CNN.
As much as he and other GOP figures may want to deny it, Palin still attracts a strong following and remains the darling of the media – if not her own party.
“She’s bigger in the media than in reality,” commented GOP consultant Mike Murphy, a longtime adviser to John McCain.
“Palin,” he said, “is the only Republican politician right now who is interesting, a little different, connected to the last campaign and related to an occasional story in the National Enquirer,” according to the Politico report.
For his part, on the “State of the Union” show, Cantor was a whole lot kinder and gentler:
“You know, they [Palin and Limbaugh] are two individuals that have a lot of ideas, and our party should be about ideas. That’s what this effort is about and the National Council for a New America, and that is what they’re about. So I don't think any of us should have any monopoly on the ideas. And I know that there are some who like to make it all about personalities, but it’s about ideas. It’s about how we take this country forward.”
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