- Sarah Palin will be the 2012 nominee.
- At some point during the process of getting there, she will have a full-on breakdown (I think we've just seen one, but there may be more in the future). She cannot handle the pressure.
- This will cause the remaining reasonable conservatives to abandon Palin, and vast chunks of the center-right apparatus will abandon the race rather than be associated with Palin, essentially mirroring the circumstances of the 1972 presidential election. I suspect that the GOP's division after the election will be roughly analogous to the Democrats' back then.
- Charlie Crist gets the GOP nomination in 2016.
This being said, I don't think it's impossible that she'd get the nomination. Her acolytes simply don't care about such considerations as electability, and the grassroots support means lots of activists and a potentially strong grassroots network similar to Obama's in 2008. There was never a point where Obama led Clinton by more than a few points in the polls after the campaign reached its terminal stage, but from March on there was no way he could lose. This was because he and his supporters outhustled Clinton, plain and simple. Of course, Obama also had a top-notch team of logicians, which I don't think Palin will have (I basically agree with Mike Tomasky here). It seems to me that the biggest fight for 2012 will be between Palin and Huckabee. Romney is a natural target for Palin's resentments, but even if he gets out of the race it seems doubtful that Romney's country-club supporters will flock to Palin, while Huckabee's might. All three were roughly even in the polling the last time I checked, but it seems as though Huckabee and Palin have roughly similar profiles and attract roughly similar types of voters, and with both of them splitting those voters it's possible that Romney might squeak through.
And, on a related topic, I basically agree with these guys on Ross Douthat's latest column. You'd think that an upper-middle class, Harvard undergrad, New York Times op-ed columnist would avoid hackery about cultural signifiers about class, but you'd be wrong. It's not that I don't believe that there is cultural elitism, or that it's a bad thing, but I just don't think that (a) Palin's class or sex had much to do with her failure--if that were it, her facility at playing the reverse snobbery and sexist cards would have pulled her through, and (b) I simply don't think that Douthat has all that much insight into what "Middle America" thinks when he thinks Palin is huge over there, while President Obama won every state in the Midwest except for Missouri (and that was defeat by a razor-thin margin). Reminds me of Geraldine Ferraro's pitch about only Clinton being able to win Reagan Democrats--because who better to know how to do that than the person who lost them in the first place, right? It's not a completely bad column--it's sure as hell better than Kristol's usual sludge--but it sure seems like Douthat's hedging a lot these days, pretty much ever since he went from being a fairly obscure Atlantic blogger to being a prominent Times writer. He's gone from being an observer to being a player, basically. And I totally, totally understand this transformation, and Douthat at least has some scruples and principles, but I guess I feel that something's been lost in the transition between blog and column. He's establishment now.