It’s in her interest to say this, of course, if she wants any shot at the GOP nomination, and it’s bound to irritate tea-party indies who bristle at her attempts to “hijack” the movement for Republicans.

But if, like me, you’re first and foremost interested in knocking the Democrats out of power, this is pure gold.

Asked what her advice would be to conservatives as the November elections approach, Palin first lavished praise on the Tea Party movement, calling it “a grand movement” and adding, “I love it because it’s all about the people.”

But she quickly pivoted to the broader question of whether the Tea Party movement might successfully field its own candidates in national elections, and on that point she sounded far from convinced.

“Now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this Tea Party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party,” Palin said. “Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken? Which party will best fit you? And then because the Tea Party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they’re going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: ‘R’ or ‘D’.”

Translation: Forget the third-party nonsense. She’s been surprisingly consistent on this point, even with people like Glenn Beck leaning on her; all credit to her for trying to keep the train on the track for the midterms before it derails in Perotville. With exquisite timing, CNN’s out with a new poll today showing just how catastrophic a third-party tea-party movement would be to the GOP’s chances. Head to head with Democrats on the generic ballot, Republicans currently lead 47/45 among registered voters. Feast your eyes on what happens if tea partiers, er, go rogue:

cnn-split

That’s a lot of tea. In fact, according to CNN, fully 11 percent of Americans claim they’ve actively supported the tea party movement in some way. (Note to Olbermann: Supporters are also better educated than the population on average.) Can that be right? 33 million or so tea partiers?