I saw it coming last month. The only surprise is that it took this long.

It was a telling moment at Senator Tom Harkin’s 33rd annual steak fry, where Mr. Plouffe, along with David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, came to try to dispel the predictions of a dismal November for Democrats. They promoted the party’s accomplishments, but they suggested that if members needed more enticement for Election Day, they should keep Ms. Palin and other Republicans at the forefront of the conversation.

“Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are bad enough, but they’re not the real Republican Party,” Mr. Plouffe said. “It is Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. That is the power. All of these Republican candidates have to pledge allegiance to them, their intolerance and their backwards thinking.”…

This year, Ms. Palin’s name came up again and again. She is set to make her first trip of the year to Iowa on Friday as the marquee speaker at the Republican Party’s annual Ronald Reagan Dinner, an appearance that will undoubtedly fuel a round of speculation — founded or not — about whether she intends to run for president in 2012…

“We asked Glenn Beck to estimate the size of the crowd. He said 500,000,” Mr. Harkin said, taking a swipe at the conservative television host who held a large rally last month in Washington. “We asked Sarah Palin. She said it was so big that she could see it from Wasilla.”

Ba-dum-bum. Nothing surprising about this, of course: They’ve got zip to run on and need something that will, in Plouffe’s freighted turn of phrase, “get Democrats excited.” A Two Minutes Hate lasting from now to November is their best/only option and Palin’s a much more logical target for it than Boehner. For one thing, not only are her numbers among centrists poor but, er, people actually know who she is; for another thing, their moronic whining about Boehner’s lobbyist ties has become the political equivalent of an exploding cigar. Why, even their painfully lame jokes about Palin are slightly less painfully lame than their painfully lame jokes about Boehner. She’s a big bullseye and he’s a little one, so if you were a frantic Democratic campaign manager looking to goose your base, which one would you aim at? Call it … the politics of fear. No doubt Chris Coons’s first ad showcasing Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell is already in the works.

In fairness, their midterm message isn’t wholly negative; below you’ll find Campus Progress’s bold attempt to lock down the coveted “tween” vote for decades to come. Exit quotation from David Axelrod, July 26, 2009: “I can tell you with absolutely honesty that when I sit around with my political friends … there’s very little or no discussion of Sarah Palin.”