Not the near future, necessarily, just “the future,” so if you’re taking this as a hint that she’s ready to shock the field by jumping into the 2016 race, readjust your expectations. If Cruz weren’t in the race she could try to fill the tea-party niche; even if she ended up losing, she might pull enough votes to re-establish herself as an electoral force within the party, the way she was circa 2009 as the GOP’s unrivaled grassroots conservative superstar. But Cruz will be in the race, almost certainly, and Palin will just as certainly end up supporting him. Besides, if she wanted to make a splash at the presidential level, the obvious time to run was in 2012. Grassroots righties ended up bouncing from Gingrich to Cain to Santorum in trying to find a “Not Romney” they could live with. Most would have preferred Palin to all of them, and like I say, even if Romney had ended up winning, her clout as the voice of the grassroots would have been fully restored. As it is, Cruz seems to fill that role now more than she does. (Interestingly, her old sparring partner Chris Christie may have made a similar error. If he had run in 2012, he would have been a legit threat to Romney as a more charismatic center-right alternative. Now he’s at risk of getting lost in the shuffle among the Jebs and Rubios and Walkers of the world.)
So if she’s not running for president, what’s she running for? Hard to believe she’d be satisfied with being a backbencher in the House, so it’s either the Senate or the governorship in Alaska. Governor will be tricky, though: The seat won’t be up again until 2018, and even if the incumbent isn’t Republican Sean Parnell, he’s likely to be an independent who was just endorsed by Palin herself. Plus, would Alaskans be willing to reelect her to an office from which she resigned once before? In terms of the Senate, Begich’s seat won’t be up again until 2020, and according to the current polls, it’ll probably be Republican Dan Sullivan’s seat by that point. She’d have to primary the incumbent to win. A better bet would be to primary Lisa Murkowski for her Senate seat, which will be up two years from now. Murkowski famously beat Palin-backed Joe Miller in a write-in campaign in 2010 but also famously lost the primary to Wilson, suggesting that there’s room for a conservative groundswell to knock her off. Murkowski wouldn’t get caught napping by Palin the way she did by Wilson, though; she’d prepare thoroughly, a la Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, Pat Roberts, and other Republican centrists who’ve survived tea-party challenges. Her approval rating, if you believe lefty pollster PPP, is a respectable 46/39. Could Palin raise enough dough nationally from excited conservatives to overcome the huge support Murky would get from the GOP establishment? It’d be a hell of a race.
I hope it doesn’t happen, though. And the reason I hope it doesn’t happen is because there’s another Senate race out there on the horizon in 2016 which, let’s face it, the entire political world wants to see Palin involved in. There’s enormous tea-party bitterness towards the incumbent and, wouldn’t you know it, Palin just so happens to be a state resident, so she’d be eligible to run. We all want it to happen so let’s cross our fingers and hope: McCain versus Palin. Duel to the death.
Update: Oops, had a case of brain freeze above. I wrote “Joe Wilson” but meant “Joe Miller” when referencing Murkowski’s 2010 opponent. Fixed now.