It didn’t take long for Sarah Palin’s team to respond in kind to insults reported by Time’s Mark Halperin from an unnamed aide to Mitt Romney.  After the anonymous adviser sniffed that Palin is “not a serious person,” an anonymous “longtime” adviser to Palin told Politico’s Andy Barr that Romney and his team seem a lot more interested in self-promotion for 2012 than in getting Republicans elected in 2010.  Furthermore, the source said, Romney’s “finger in the wind” leadership seems to have led his own team out of control:

“It shocks me that anyone would try to do that,” the aide said. “You’d think we’d all be working together toward a common goal – that being 2010 – and that should be the focus right now. Those who try to claim the mantle of Reagan would be good to follow one of his most sacred tenets.”

“For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the Governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature,” the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, continued. …

Further, the Palin aide criticized Romney’s staff for launching into attacks focused on the 2012 Republican presidential primary rather than focusing on November’s midterm election.

“She’s not focused on promoting herself or disparaging other Republicans,” the aide said. The Republican Party is “not worried about 2012. We should be focused on 2010.”

Perhaps not, but this sounds like an argument for 2012:

“She’s not a finger-in-the-wind kind of leader. She supporting candidates who share her common sense values,” the aide said. “When you have a team of consultants and strategists that big it’s hard to control.”

Sounds as though Palin and her team are not afraid of playing a little hardball within the party, or at least not afraid of fighting fire with fire.  The shot from the Romney camp does seem to indicate some control issues. After all, while candidates will certainly jockey for position in 2010, it’s far too early to be taking public shots at each other.  The question of being a “team player” is rather important in the midterms.  Both Romney and Palin have done a good job in raising money and supporting candidates for Congress — and that’s exactly where the focus should remain.

If it doesn’t, Palin and her team just showed that they can respond in kind — and that pols with glass houses shouldn’t busy themselves with throwing stones.  As Tammy Bruce’s response demonstrates, getting into debates a year early may not help Romney out much:

So, let’s interpret this–the Decent Man-of-Faith Mitt Romney is so decent, so trustworthy, that his first plan of action, his first choice of attack is to call into question not Palin’s ideas, or strategy, or approach, but her very humanity; an attack which blatantly attempts to dismiss her as a silly girl, someone not with whom he disagrees, but beneath complete human status. Normally, your first plan of attack is your best, most thoughtful plan. This says volumes about Romney’s nature and character and it will not be forgotten. …

And the Republican operative? Attempts to reduce her to an animal, literally, and a cat, no less. Sleek (attractive) and fast (dangerous), but also, essentially, not serious. An interesting conjunction and indicative of established Romney and frightened Republican party line.

Here’s a word of warning to all the establishment politicians who think dismissing or denigrating Sarah Palin will pay off. The tact has been tried and has already failed. The same smear was tried by Nikki Haley’s opponents, and it helped propel her to victory. Why? Because the American people are sick and tired of gutter-tripe tossed at women who dare to pursue their American dream.

I don’t think Romney really wants the debate to go there at this moment.  Right now, he should get his team focused on the midterms and let 2012 wait until at least 2011.

Update: Right on time, Gallup polls Republicans and Americans in general on favorability among the perceived 2012 contenders.  Among Republicans, Palin gets a 76/20, while Romney gets a 54/19.  In general, Palin’s slightly underwater at 44/47 (and has the highest levels of both favorability and unfavorability), while Romney gets a 36/28.  At least as a candidate and an activist, Palin should be taken seriously by Romney.

Update II: Mitt Romney tried to call a truce in the sniping war with this message on Twitter at around 11:30 am ET: “TIME says unnamed advisors disparaged @SarahPalinUSA. Anonymous numbskulls. She’s proven her smarts; they’ve disproven theirs.”  Hopefully, that will settle things down.