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Sarah Palin Is Now the GOP Establishment

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It's the second time this year that Sarah Palin going rogue has paid off. Her "death panels" squeal set Pres. Obama and the Democrats back on their heals, and when she came out to endorse Mr. Hoffman it seemed laughable. It doesn't matter that former Sen. Fred Thompson and his wife were there too. Sarah Palin took the spotlight. If Mr. Hoffman wins tonight, which looks like is going to happen, it will be as if Christmas has come early. Palin's Facebook page sure to be flooded, as the right-wing revolution begins.

In what could be a nightmare scenario for Republican Party officials, conservative activists are gearing up to challenge leading GOP candidates in more than a dozen key House and Senate races in 2010.

Conservatives and tea party activists had already set their sights on some of the GOP's top Senate recruits -- a list that includes Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida, former Rep. Rob Simmons in Connecticut and Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois, among others.

But their success in Tuesday's upstate New York special election, where grass-roots efforts pushed GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava to drop out of the race and helped Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman surge into the lead on the eve of Election Day, has generated more money and enthusiasm than organizers ever imagined.

Among the stories of Dede Scozzafava's bombshell election bailout came one reporting that Newt Gingrich had tucked his tail in to endorse Mr. Hoffman, after first siding with Scozzafava, as did John Boehner and Michael Steele. Nobody cared; they were too late and too yesterday.

Meanwhile, Frank Rich has analyzed this in terms of what can "bring this president down," which isn't the lesson of the strange Scozzafava tale playing out.

It's the story of 2010 and what this rabid right rev up means for turn out, when many on the left are becoming more and more disengaged, with jobs more of a worry in 2012, with next year all about the bailout/stimulus backlash, while sending Pres. Obama a message. Arianna lays it out.

Besides, anybody who thought an abortion rights, gay rights Republican candidate would be able to survive the current climate was deluding him- or herself, even if Scozzafava's pre-election flame out was not foreseen. But to think these issues are what's driving people is missing the mark by a mile. Scozzafava's eventual loss, or maybe it should be bracketed as the eventual rise of the tea party class candidate, was inevitable. It's been building for months. GOP party bosses are o-u-t, because they've failed to deliver.

Independents are delivering that same message to Obama in droves.

It's foreshadowing of what I've been talking about since this summer. The far right's resurgence in a way we haven't seen in a very long time. Whether it's bailout blues, or the revving up of the right wing engine fueled by wingnut radio, egged on by Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, with a lot of help from Fox, this is a movement of emotion, the most powerful kind you can have in politics.

It's not surprising that as you read the articles about this Republican earthquake, few are focusing the kleig lights where they belong. Sarah Palin stood up and out and boldly backed Hoffman long before it was clear it was a very good idea. Tim Pawlenty was there too, but he's not got the "it" factor of Sarah, who is first among people who matter.

What does it all mean?

Expect more of it from the far right, with moderate Republicans further on the outs than ever. But that's not what should worry Democrats.

Looking at 2010 it means that our opponents will be emotionally engaged, attached to outcome, and inspired to support more tea party activist types at all costs. They aren't calculating who can win as much as they are the type of person they want in office who they're willing to back to make a statement, even if the person loses. Call it the realignment of the right.

The most committed wins and in off-year elections that goes double. If the health care bill looks as bad as the CBO's latest reviews are saying, with premiums being higher, it's going to add even more fodder, because people on the left will disengage further. Add wingnut radio, which is the best GOTV engine in American politics, and you've got a political adrenaline pumped right into the voting disgruntled. Because conservatives won't just be voting against all things Obama; they will be voting for tea party candidates that talk their language, no matter how alien it is to independents and others looking to register their complaints next year.

Amidst it all, Sarah Palin stands tallest, even as she's still impossible to take seriously, with independents, now the largest political block in America, laughing. But she understands the pulse of the pissed off on her side, which is good for her. The dangerous point is that the right isn't the only group ticked off. Unfortunately for Sarah, her credibility to lead among independents and other voters remains non-existent, which is good news for us, at least for 2012. Because the same people who picked Hoffman run the GOP presidential primary system and there is no evidence whatsoever that they can win nationally. Though as jobs become more of an issue and Mitt Romney steps into the 2011 limelight, who knows where this could end, as kitchen table issues could be the 2012 rallying cry, as it's always "the economy, stupid," especially when your checkbook is on fire.

But tomorrow, if Hoffman holds on to win, Sarah Palin will be the story. "The quitter" will be the victor. It's been good not to be governor anymore.

Taylor Marsh, with podcasts available on iTunes.