(WASHINGTON) -- When television host and former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough published a scathing op-ed piece in Politico against Sarah Palin on Tuesday, he was not only trying to put a dent in her presidential ambitions. He was also encouraging Republicans to break what has largely been a vow of silence among GOP leaders when it comes to criticizing her.
"The same leaders who fret that Sarah Palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private," wrote Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's Morning Joe. "Enough. It's time for the GOP to man up."
Scarborough joined other prominent conservative columnists and political strategists, including Peggy Noonan and Karl Rove, who have raised questions about Palin's presidential prospects, but his comments also show how rare it is for influential Republicans to say anything less than polite about her.
Even Rove, who has voiced criticism of the former Alaska governor in the past, has recently showed signs of softening. In an appearance on Fox News last week, he said that Palin's decision to make several stops in Iowa while on tour for her new book was a wise choice.
"She's going to make three stops out of 16 stops on her book tour -- three stops are going to be in the state of Iowa," Rove said. "That's a pretty smart move if you're thinking about running for president."
It's unclear whether Scarborough's blunt assessment of Palin's, in his words, "dopey dream" of running for president will embolden other prominent Republicans to deliver similar assessments. But at least as far as the field of potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates is concerned, almost everyone is practicing good manners -- especially when it comes to Palin.
All the friendly appearances and niceties of GOP leaders will no doubt seem downright tame six months or a year from now, when many of these Republicans are likely to be in the midst of a scrappy fight for the GOP nomination. And although Republicans may be walking on egg shells around Palin, in particular, Scarborough's op-ed points to deep divisions within the party about the wisdom of choosing her as the nominee.
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