Who’s Fred Malek and why should you care? Think of him as sort of the Beltway-insider equivalent of John Ziegler. Like Ziegs, he’s a Sarahcuda defender par excellence, and like Ziegs, he doesn’t think she’s angling for a serious shot at the presidency. From a WaPo profile last year describing him as “the authority on Palin”:

It is that sense of loyalty that has led Malek, a prominent Republican rainmaker, to emerge as the leading defender of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the wake of the 2008 election where she served as the party’s vice presidential nominee.

Palin’s surprise resignation last week has made Malek a wanted man — one of a coveted few in Washington who have a relationship with the Alaska governor…

Aside from seeing her occasionally at fundraising events during the fall, Malek had little contact with Palin until McCain’s defeat last November. As the obituaries of the campaign began to be written — and Palin began to be savaged by former McCain aides — Malek found himself more and more annoyed. “It really torqued me,” he explained.

Malek proceeded to take Palin under his considerable Washington wing, inviting her to attend the exclusive Alfalfa Dinner in late January as his guest and hosting a foreign policy discussion attended by the likes of former secretary of defense Frank Carlucci and former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott.

See this guest post at Red State for an idea of how deep his admiration runs. He’s not speaking here as a confidant, i.e. with any insider knowledge of which way she’s leaning, but if even superfans like Ziegler and Malek think she’s not preparing the way she should be, it’s a fair bet that she’s not preparing the way she should be. Exit question: Assuming she doesn’t run, which way do the Palinistas break in the primary? (Exit answer: Huckamania!)

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