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McCain Draws Link Between Palin and Reagan

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin signs her new book 'America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag,' Nov. 23, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. Getty Images

Arizona Sen. John McCain evoked Ronald Reagan when asked about Sarah Palin's "divisiveness" on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

"I think that anybody who has the visibility that Sarah has is obviously going to have some divisiveness," McCain said of his 2008 running mate. (Watch video below.) "I remember that a guy named Ronald Reagan used to be viewed by some as divisive."

McCain made the comments while lauding Palin for motivating the GOP base and having "a positive impact," telling CNN's Candy Crowley, "I think she's doing great job."

It wasn't a direct comparison between Palin and Reagan, but it was enough to set off chatter concerning similarities between the two onetime Republican governors.

And you can make a (limited) case for some similarities: Although Reagan is warmly remembered by many Americans today, he was no stranger to divisiveness, as the Washington Post's "The Fix" notes.

Reagan's average approval rating while president was 53 percent, lower than many other recent presidents; about one in three Americans opposed him. Even now, the former president evokes both strongly positive and strongly negative reactions.

Palin's numbers are actually worse than those: Last month, CBS News polling found that just 22 percent of Americans view Palin favorably, while 48 percent have an unfavorable view of her. (While it isn't all that hard to find a self-described "Reagan Democrat," as The Fix notes, good luck tracking down a "Palin Democrat.")

Still, McCain is fair to note that both Palin and Reagan can be called divisive figures. You could make other comparisons too: Both were Republican governors who were mocked for a perceived lack of intelligence upon their entry onto the national political scene. That's something Palin is likely aware of as she considers a presidential run. Whether the similarities ultimately end there, as many Americans (including some top Washington Republicans) appear to believe, is a question that it is now too early to answer.

Earlier this month, Palin was asked about a connection to Reagan.

"Well, Reagan was criticized for being an ideologue, for being too superficial, too idealistic, too optimistic, and a bit too independent," she said on Fox News. "I see, perhaps, a comparison in maybe some of our record, but nobody can be compared to Ronald Reagan."



Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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