Can Palin win?

“Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both,” said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. “Right now, she is a figure like [George] McGovern or [Barry] Goldwater, two candidates who led the most intense movements in our country’s political history, but who couldn’t win the middle.”…

Palin has many detractors, even within the GOP. They deride the content of her tea party speech as being long on grievance but short on substance. They mock her for the notes scribbled on her palm during that appearance and what they see as inconsistencies in her statements.

But as one GOP strategist, who declined to be identified in order to speak more freely about her, put it, “Palin has a following that is thoroughly uninterested in experiences on issues and instead is completely motivated by attributes. They’ll take her authenticity over her ideas every day of the week.”…

For those thinking of running for the GOP nomination in 2012, Palin’s presence must be noted but not engaged politically or substantively. “To do anything, to go out and challenge her, just does not make any sense right now,” said another Republican strategist who is advising a prospective 2012 candidate. The risk, this strategist said, is that a candidate could alienate voters who, if Palin does not run, will be looking for someone else. “And it’s clear she holds a grudge and doesn’t forget it,” he said.