Did someone here order the red meat?

In a straw poll of attendees at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas over the weekend, 48 percent of respondents said they’d like to see Palin as the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee. Rep. Ron Paul came in a distant second, at 11 percent. Ten percent voted for Rick Santorum, 9 percent for Mitt Romney and 8 percent for Newt Gingrich. Seven percent chose Tim Pawlenty, while 5 percent said Mike Huckabee, and 1 percent said Rep. Mike Pence.

One name not on the list was Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. While he may not be on everyone’s radar for 2012, DNC executive director Jennifer O’Malley Dillon said at the Netroots conference this weekend that Thune was the potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate who scares her the most. “John Thune is somebody that I have nightmares about,” O’Malley Dillon said. “He has his head down and is doing some policy stuff.”

Thune would give them fits because they wouldn’t know how to define him. Same with Mitch Daniels, albeit to a lesser extent thanks to his Bush pedigree. With Palin, the DNC narrative is already set and, equally importantly, her name recognition is such that they could frame the election as a choice between two mega-stars, not a referendum on The One’s first term. That’s their strategy in November too, of course: If they run on their record they’re dead on arrival, no matter what the voices in Harry Reid’s head might be telling him, so they’re forced to push a “GOP is worse!” message that deflects attention onto their opponents. Hence the constant agonizing among the Republican House leadership about whether to endorse a specific conservative agenda for the midterms, which gives the Dems something concrete to attack, or whether to sell themselves more vaguely as candidates of, er, hope and change vis-a-vis Pelosi’s Democratic majority. If Sarahcuda’s the nominee, we get a real “A vs. B” choice election, not an “A vs. Not A” referendum as typically happens with incumbent presidents. That would be tons of fun to write about under any circumstance, but with two larger-than-life candidates like her and The One, it’d be blog paradise; it’d also have the party establishment, which is eager for a straightforward “anyone but Obama” campaign, breathing into paper bags. No wonder lefty bloggers are gung ho. And hey — just think how much fresh new Trig Truther material they must have saved up by now.

Further to the point, see PPP’s new poll on what’s happened to Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire since Palin endorsed her. The bounce among Republican primary voters has coincided with a downturn among moderates, precisely the dynamic lefties are counting on to capture the center in an Obama/Palin race. We’ll see what happens with Fiorina, another Palin endorsee, in deep-blue California. At the moment, she’s still right in the thick of things.