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Zaleski: Palin-Paul a dream ticket -- for Democrats

The best thing that could happen to Democrats in the run-up to the 2016 election campaign is a Republican slate of Sarah Palin for president and Rand Paul for her running mate. It's a dream ticket for Democrats, a nightmare for Republicans.

As the Republican Party attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together again after the presidential fiascos of 2008 and 2012, the challenge that rises above all others is defining, or redefining, the party. It's not going well.

Party disarray was in full flower recently at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, where Palin and Paul were among the headliners of a peculiar show.

Palin, you'll recall, is the failed half-term governor of Alaska and the vice presidential candidate who guaranteed that a good man, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would lose his bid for the presidency to an unknown, untested, one-term senator from Illinois. Since then, she's become a superstar attraction wherever the far right huddles up, and CPAC gave her the love. They cheered her snarky remarks about other Republicans. They loved her coquettish sipping of a jumbo soft drink (a swipe at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican). They laughed raucously at her "rack" joke (obliquely referring to her admittedly fetching figure), which put her in the company of high-priced hookers presenting trophies at the porn film industry awards. Ya gotta love the family values crowd.

For his part, Kentucky Sen. Paul, fresh off a filibuster on drone policy that proved nothing, won warm applause for castigating the party. "The GOP of old has grown stale," he opined. And in a straw poll of likely presidential candidates, the way-out-of-the-mainstream CPAC delegates picked Paul.

Of course, CPAC is not the Republican National Committee, but the far-right, tea-party gang is the large tail wagging the lost dog. As if to underscore its disdain for Republicans who are popular, and actually have a chance of winning national office, CPAC did not invite New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the shindig. Christie, arguably the most popular Republican in the country, was persona non grata because he made nice to President Barack Obama when the president visited the ravaged New Jersey coast after Superstorm Sandy. Christie won plaudits. Far-right Republicans won raspberries.

Consider this: Republican candidates have lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. See a pattern there? Yet, mainstream Republicans, who really have a lot to offer the nation, continue to be bullied further to the right by CPAC types, while Americans move to the middle. That's not the way to put Humpty Dumpty back together.

Zaleski is the opinion editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at