Still, few express much regard for Palin’s ultimate chances. One adviser to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and, by traditional standards, the putative 2012 frontrunner, says of Palin, “She’s not a serious human being.” Another Romney intimate warns, “If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble.”

One of the most experienced Republican national political operatives in the country suggests that while Palin might be envied and sleek, she lacks the endurance required for a protracted nomination fight. “She’s like a cheetah. She can run really fast, but not really long.” In the end, this school of thought about Palin goes, she is too polarizing to be seen as likely to beat Barack Obama, and Republicans will be too hungry in 2012 to risk nominating someone who could cost the party the White House — maybe even in a landslide…

Still, there remain serious doubts within the party about Romney’s numerous policy flip-flops, remote personal style, and support for Obama-style health care reform in Massachusetts during his governorship, as well as concern over potential prejudice against his Mormon faith.