Chris Bowers of Open Left says that the 2012 GOP nomination is Palin’s if she wants it.
She can draw a crowd and raise money, as Bowers noted. Right now the Republicans are intensely focused on fundraising, because Steele clumsily broke the GOP money pipeline right in the middle of the midterms, by angering party donors with his strip-club fiasco.
The Republicans have expressed fear of Palin in the past, due in part to her gaffes and her extraordinary baggage, and the fact that she polls very badly against Obama. She even polls poorly in the south, which could potentially give Obama a shot in a state like Georgia, where Obama made little effort but still came within about 5 points of McCain (Obama lost by 9 in South Carolina and 12 in Texas). The party could have blocked her path to the nomination. But they haven’t done so, for whatever reasons. Right now I think they’re too busy figuring out how to deal with Steele, to worry about reining in Palin. Perhaps they fear to support her, but they also fear to oppose her.
The GOP has a weak primary field for 2012 –- so who could stop her? Huckabee probably won’t run, so he won’t force Palin to split the wingnut vote. Romney did a mediocre job running in 2008 and now has Republicans gunning for him on the health care issue. And the GOP has a historic reluctance to gamble on unknowns.
Does she want the nomination? Is she concerned about embarrassing herself on the campaign trail or in the press, or embarrassing herself in a landslide loss against an incumbent when she could instead run in 2016? So far, her ethos seems to be “nothing to apologize for and nothing to lose”….
If she chooses not to run, she will wait until the last minute to say so –- once she rules out a run, the attention stops. But she needs to decide soon, so she can set up an organization, networks, donors etc.
But the underlying question remains: if Palin decides she wants the nomination, who can stop her? Unless another, stronger candidate can bring her down in the primaries, what other option is there? Senior party leaders could get together and try to block her path, by changing the rules or uniting behind a challenger, but there is no such challenger, and again, currently the party leadership is in disarray, dealing with Steele, the teabaggers, challenges from the right, and so forth.
PS the latest poll, from Clarus, has Obama beating Palin by 18, if the election were held today.