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President Sarah Palin

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(Photo: (L-R) Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images; Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Steve Pope/Getty Images; Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)


John Heilemann thinks so in an article that could be subtitled “How to get elected United States President”:

Firstly, she’ll put her hat in the ring; her ambition having won over her intelligence. Then she’ll overwhelm the Republican field [picture] first with the Tea Party’s backing:

All those guys they could try and turn it up and have the fervor, but voters are gonna read through it,” says Dowd. “It’s just not authentic to them, because they’ve been part of the Washington scene or taking part in state politics, where they cut deals and made compromises—which is part of governing but lethal in this environment.”

On this reading, the tea party and its populist brethren seem likely to emerge as the new Christian right, only more powerful—not merely exercising an effective veto over any nominee but altering the underlying dynamics of the race. “There will be two simultaneous primaries: a mainstream-conservative primary and a primary in the anti-Establishment wing of the party,” says John Weaver, McCain’s guru in 2000 and the early part of his run in 2008. “And then there’ll be a playoff down the road between the winners of the two.”

The sequencing of primary elections does its bit:

Beyond the intensity of her grassroots following, Palin would bring to the race two other significant advantages, the first being the calendar. That she would be the prohibitive favorite in Iowa, where the caucuses are dominated by Evangelical voters, is considered a given by most strategists. But, in fact, all of the first four states might provide fertile ground for Palin. “Iowa and New Hampshire both are places in which the tea party has manifested itself,” observes Dowd. “In South Carolina, [firebrand Senator] Jim DeMint has already shown that he’s a force to be reckoned with. And Nevada’s nominated Sharron Angle.”

then her unconventional, even insurgent campaigning and the media’s reaction to her every 140 characters takes its toll:

Palin’s second advantage, nearly incalculable in its scale and implications, is her ability simultaneously to drive and saturate the electronic media, new and old—the way that cable chronicles her every twitch, that with a trifling tweet she often earns 24 hours of breathless nonstop coverage. “It’ll be something that we’ve never seen before,” says John Weaver. “Obama wasn’t like that until the general election.”

How will the Establishment candidates cope with all of this? “The first thing it does is completely freaks them out,” says McKinnon. “And the hard part is, it’s going to be difficult for them to go after her, because she’s so popular [within the party]”—and also because she’s likely to be the only woman in a large field of men. “If you have somebody who can operate the way she does,” adds another strategist, “which is totally outside of political convention, where she does not engage with the free press, she does not answer questions when she speaks, her communication is done in 140-character bursts on Twitter or on a Facebook post, her ability to have the nine other people who are running afraid to disagree with her is problematic, right? It forces a guy like Pawlenty to say things that are obviously not true, like ‘Sarah Palin of course is prepared to be president!’ ”

In truth, what the Establishment candidates are likely to do is focus on their own bracket—on emerging as the Palin alternative around which the non-tea-party elements of the GOP coalesce. “If you’re a traditional candidate, you have to run a traditional campaign,” counsels Castellanos. “There will be an opportunity to seize that mantle, the Establishment, Reaganesque, visionary Republican mantle. My advice would be, don’t run in Sarah Palin’s primary. Go win your primary.”

In July (check me out), I tweeted:

Palin GOP

“I still think this is true although now, I’d add that the problem for more mainstream Republicans would be same as what is affecting the Democrats coming up to the November elections; uber-motivated right-wingers whose turnout will swamp your moderate vote. The same effect aiding the Republicans now- and which they’re cheering- will bite them in the behind going forward.

If that happens, I doubt she’ll win mainly because even though I have my criticisms about them, I don’t think Americans are stupid, nor enjoy self-harm. However, Heilemann thinks up a scenario in which New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg gets into the race based on his appeal to moderate Republicans (“economic competence and financial acumen”) and liberal social stances. This will occur especially if the economy doesn’t pick up soon:

But there is a third scenario, one that involves a more granular kind of analysis-cum-speculation. By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg—especially with the help of his billions—would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives—which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

Again brrrrrrrrrr.

NB: Today, Palin says she’ll run in 2012, “if there’s nobody else to do it”. Which I think means “If I don’t like any of the candidates, then I’ll run”. Or she knows that everyone will be dead then.

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