It's impossible over the last few days to read/watch/listen to any kind of news without hearing about Sarah Palin, her book, her Oprah interview, and how she's still just a honest, God-fearing, down-to-earth, anti-socialism hockey grandmother.
The Republican Party, despite her rather harsh words about the McCain campaign seems cautiously supportive. There is no doubt that since she was nominated as John McCain's running mate, the heartland has turned out in droves for her; and if the Republicans are to win more House seats during the midterms or mount a viable challenge in 2012, they will need the heartland to turn out in droves for their nominee.
Ms Palin is being understandably coy about her intentions (other than to help elect Republicans in 2010, and promote her book). Polls show that well over half (59%) of Republicans and 21% of Independents have a favorable opinion of her, and I imagine close to that percentage believe that she'd make a good president. In her own words, her people are "everyday, hard-working Americans who want government back on their side."
For someone who has been as contentious as she has, whose family has had as many ups and down as hers has, this is either a remarkable testament to her star-power, or a serious indictment of the American voters. What you can't argue is her ability to draw a crowd, get free publicity and media coverage, and raise funds for candidates she supports.
So what of all this? What's the political upshot? Who's most afraid of Palin?
I think it's the leaders of the Republican Party who are most scared. And if the Democrats are thinking at all, they're secretly rooting for her. You might be wondering if I've gone off the bend, or is this just a typo?
What if in 2011 as the Republican leadership game begins to heat up, Sarah Palin, having supported the party during the midterms, resigns from the Republican party (citing concerns about how establishment they are, reiterating their screw-ups during the last presidential election, and punctuating all this with her real worry, which is their centrist, almost liberal views on key issues (she may not even have to name these issues))?
Yes, Sarah Palin will resign. In her speech she will say that since the mid-terms she has assembled a team who like her are just plain, ordinary Americans, and raised a large-enough war chest to finance her own campaign without the help of the Republican party.
She will then announce her candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent with the wholehearted support of the Tea Party, the NRA, much of the religious right, and potentially Fox News (maybe she'll also announce Sean Hannity is her choice for Vice President). Thus will "Palin - for the People" be born.
Like Ross Perot before her, she will split the Republican base, earning about 20% of the popular vote, and giving a landslide victory to the Democratic ticket.
I don't believe she is this smart, but then again, I didn't just resign my job and get a $7million book deal.