Putting ideology aside for a moment, it's important from a purely political perspective to analyze exactly where Sarah Palin is headed. Regardless of what you think of her, she is a fascinating political figure who is the right's answer to Barack Obama. For whatever reason, she has galvanized millions.
It's obvious that Palin considers herself presidential material. That makes examining her post-election trajectory even more alarming.
She returned to Alaska in November 2008, despite the myriad ethical problems, as a highly popular governor. After a few high-profile speaking engagements, she inexplicably stepped down in July 2009, after roughly two and a half years as governor. After doing so, Palin made waves with her outrageous rhetoric about "death panels." As expected, her memoir was released at the end of the year, rocketing to the top of virtually every best-seller list.
She has reached the "now what?" moment.
I noted in a previous post that she would be wise to mount a primary challenge to Lisa Murkowski, the strongly pro-choice senior senator from Alaska. I'm not tuned in to Alaska politics, but if 1) Palin is remotely as popular among ultra-conservatives in Alaska as she is everywhere else and 2) pro-choice Republicans are treated as black sheep in Alaska as they are everywhere else, Palin stands quite a strong chance of becoming the Republican nominee. Given the Democrats' stunning collapse, she would win the general election in a cakewalk. And remember: Palin has upended an incumbent Murkowski before -- she beat incumbent Frank Murkowski in the Alaskan gubernatorial primary in 2006.
Making a play for national office would be an incredibly shrewd move -- like Hillary Clinton in 1999-2000, Palin is in need of a serious public makeover if she aspires higher office. Unfortunately, given her annoying penchant for doing the exact opposite of what she should, I can't seriously envision a scenario where Palin even entertains challenging Murkowski.
Palin must get back to the business of governing. If she continues to write books, make campaign appearances at highly scripted rallies and give softball interviews to the likes of Sean Hannity, she doesn't stand a chance of ever reaching the presidency. We've written here numerous times that she ought to put her head down, run for the Senate, become engaged in national affairs, and most importantly, establish herself as a serious person prone to serious things.
Otherwise, she will remain a highly divisive public figure, and be hero to a very small percentage of Americans.