Palin’s problem at the moment is her mixed image. The super hockey mom part — running a state government from her kitchen while stirring elk stew with one hand and holding her own special-needs baby with the other — goes down well with conservative Republicans. But it’s complicated for independents by the fact that her tart tongue sometimes seems to be running ahead of her brain. (Reagan was rarely accused of that.) Her detractors question her intelligence. I don’t, but I do wonder about her lack of curiosity and apparent belief that she can ride the maverick card all the way to the presidency. Flouting conventional wisdom is fun, but no one wins the White House “my way.” There’s virtue in being an outsider — Reagan proved that — but not in being uninformed. If she’s serious, she’ll methodically embrace a long-term strategy based on discipline and self-control…

She’ll learn to ignore the snarky barbs and insults aimed at her and her family. She’ll gain grudging respect through commentary across media platforms, from print and broadcast to the Internet. She’ll reject the idea of having her own television talk show as too risky. Eventually she’ll surround herself with — and listen to — a cadre of wrinkled, first-class political advisers.

The last point is crucial. Raising campaign funds will be a snap for Palin — she’s already raised more than $1 million this year. Crafting a coherent and compelling campaign message won’t be difficult. But to go back to Reagan: despite his gifted ability to charm crowds, I questioned his electability until I got to know the professionals who ran his campaigns. They weren’t all ideological clones of Reagan, but people, such as Michael Deaver, James Lake and Richard Wirthlin, who were pragmatic and very smart.