Internal White House debate: Is it time to start attacking Palin?

I know, I know. Supposedly they already decided to do this, right? Well, yes and no. David Plouffe took a few shots at her the other day and Gibbs called her “the most formidable force in the Republican Party” at today’s White House presser, but no one’s thrown any roundhouses yet.

The question: Is it time?

There is, in fact, a much better avatar of the Tea Party movement [than Boehner, Beck, or DeMint], someone whose very name provokes disgust among Democrats, someone whose name identification is 100 percent and whose ubiquity is extremely useful.

That person is Sarah Palin. All that’s required is for the President to utter her name a couple of times. The Fox-Rush-Redstate nexus would explode. Palin would bask in the attention and respond. And respond. And respond. The press would cover the story and ask why the President would elevate Sarah Palin? David Broder might write a column bemoaning the fact that the President chose politics over the institution of the presidency, which is supposed to respect the dignity of all Americans.

Elevate Sarah Palin? How much higher can she go? Everyone knows her. Some of Obama’s advisers have argued in the past that the attention paid to Palin by Americans in the last stages of the 2008 campaign is one reason why Obama was able to win so cleanly.

PPP’s new presidential snapshot poll has her trailing Obama by six, with 38/52 favorability nationwide. (Follow the link for interesting numbers on Glenn Beck.) I’m mystified as to why they’re holding back. If they’re worried about raising her profile, forget it: She’s so famous now that not even Obama can do anything to further raise her profile. All the media coverage this week of O’Donnell’s win and her endorsement has cemented her identification with the tea party, which makes things nice and tidy for Democrats in terms of using her unfavorable ratings to taint TP candidates by association. In fact, as Ambinder goes on to note after the excerpt above, her image among Dems and centrists as a culture warrior is an efficient way to counter the GOP’s strategy of appealing to indies by playing up fiscal concerns and downplaying social issues. And of course, regardless of what happens this year, building up Palin is in the White House’s long-term interest insofar as she’s the candidate they want to face in 2012. A “referendum election” in which voters are asked to grade The One’s first term sounds like a very bad idea right now if you’re a liberal. But if you can make it a “choice election” between Obama and the left’s idea of a wingnut supervillain, then, in theory, they’ve got a shot. No one’s more super on the right at the moment than Palin; if the White House believes in its strategy, they should want to do everything they can to keep it that way.

And if they take her on now, the timing would be perfect. Tonight’s her big Iowa speech, an occasion which led her to say this to Fox News earlier today:

“If the American people were to be ready for someone who is willing to shake it up, and willing to get back to time-tested truths, and help lead our country towards a more prosperous and safe future and if they happen to think I was the one, if it were best for my family and for our country, of course I would give it a shot,” she said.

“But I’m not saying that it’s me. I know I can certainly make a difference without having a title. I’m having a good time doing exactly that right now.”

She’s not opening the door, just sort of … opening the door to opening the door. Presumably Axelrod et al. are holding back on her because they saw how O’Donnell’s fundraising exploded this week the day after the election; a White House attack on Palin would be gleefully exploited by the GOP among grassroots donors — “Defend Sarah and tea partiers by donating!” or something like that — and the resulting moneybomb could cut deep into the Dems’ dwindling money advantage. But as the big red wave advances — and it’s starting to look awfully big — they have less and less to lose. Why not help a blogger out by giving him a traffic bonanza for weeks on end? C’mon, Barry. Attack.

In honor of the glorious prospect of a full-on Obama/Palin smackdown, I give you the latest from the blogosphere’s favorite Taiwanese animators. Keep a sharp eye out for the chicken.