Say what you will about her political choices, but Sarah Palin knows how to spot winners. She picked Scott Brown for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, then supported Rick Perry over Kay Bailey Hutchison for governor of Texas. She endorsed Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination against uber-progressive California Democrat Barbara Boxer.
Palin's endorsement of Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate in Florida helped drive fickle Charlie Crist out of the GOP primary race. And it will be very interesting watching her campaign for Republican Pat Toomey over Democrat Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania's Senate race. But probably her most dramatic political choices this year have been Sharron Angle to face Harry Reid in Nevada and for Nikki Haley to be the next governor of South Carolina.
Some, myself included, have argued that Sarah Palin's one misstep was her decision to campaign for her 2008 running mate, Sen. John McCain, even though we all know why she did it. Personally, I hope former Congressman J.D. Hayworth defeats McCain for the nomination this year in Arizona, but it is unlikely the former Alaska Governor's political rising star will be dimmed either way. If McCain loses, it will be a mere blip in Palin's long string of victorious endorsements. If he wins, she will be credited with influencing enough Tea Party conservatives to put him over the top. Regardless, she will have a grateful incumbent in her corner.
Palin is building a stack of political markers that will become golden chits in 2012. If she is running for president, she is doing it the old fashioned way, the way Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan did it in 1968 and 1980, respectively. After his razor-thin defeat for the presidency in 1960, Nixon followed up with his embarrassing loss for governor of California in 1962. It was after that race that he told us we "wouldn't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore."
Six years later, he was elected President of the United States. From 1964, in the aftermath of Barry Goldwater's trouncing at the hands of Lyndon Johnson, until 1968, when he once again claimed the Republican presidential nomination, Richard Nixon campaigned relentlessly, from coast to coast, for GOP gubernatorial and congressional candidates. In the process, he helped a lot of hopefuls win public office. This translated into the grateful support of a lot of newly elected officials at the 1968 Republican Convention.
After serving two terms as governor of California and then challenging accidental President Gerald Ford in 1976, Ronald Reagan spent the next three years raising money and campaigning for Republican candidates around the country. By 1980, despite a full stable of other GOP candidates, Reagan was the favorite among conservatives, who by then had taken control of the Republican Party.
Despite yammering liberal pundits cackling about Sarah Palin's alleged lack of intelligence and qualifications, she may yet have the last laugh. She has written a best-selling book, commands six figure speaking fees, and is building up a lot of good will within the party.
But there is another reason Sarah Palin may yet emerge as the most likely candidate to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. The disastrous manner in which Obama and company are handling the Gulf oil spill, combined with the extremely unpopular environmental regulations they are trying to implement as a result, could very well open the door for a rival who knows a thing or two about energy policy.
The fact is that Barack Obama has never run so much as a cash register at a convenience store, and he has surrounded himself with similarly ignorant eggheads, thus making him extremely vulnerable to a challenge from someone who has, in fact, not only run a large state but also has had vast experience negotiating tough deals with oil company executives. That someone is Sarah Palin. As one of the most knowledgeable public figures in the country on the issue of energy policy, Palin can take the conservative message right into the center of the storm.