THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sarah Palin Taps Into Tea Partiers

Sarah's the Tea Party queen of 2010. But are they a third party movement, Republican pest or Democratic gift? Who knows? But they're representative of the mood out there right now, which is also hitting Martha Coakley in Massachusetts. Just don't worry about Sarah Palin, because she's got this all mapped out. Tea Party convention is in, but CPAC is out. Going rogue has paid off so far so why should Sarah stop now?

The first time I heard about their convention, it was through an ad on a conservative blog. The Christian Science Monitor wrote about their rise last week:

.. But with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll ranking a generic "Tea Party" as more popular than either Democrats or Republicans, and Palin herself rivaling the charming Mr. Obama in poll popularity, many experts see the Tea Party event as a potential milestone for a mounting, even transformational, force in US politics. ...
The GOP establishment may not like her, but she doesn't seem to care. Sarah Palin knows that whatever shot she's got at the big job won't come through traditional means. She's mapped out another strategy.

CPAC was one of the first events I attended after arriving in DC last spring. Back then, Rush Limbaugh was sporting 90 more pounds and bouncing like a bobble head on stage, clearly nervous, over caffeinated, giving a speech way too long and uninteresting even for someone of his stature. Rush's darling, Sarah Palin, want's none of it this year.

Chris Cilizza encapsulated the battle for Republicans against Sarah Palin:

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's decision to attend -- and speak at -- the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans in April transforms that event into the first legitimate cattle-call of the 2012 Republican presidential sweepstakes. ...

Sarah Palin's presence is what defines the Republican horse race for 2012 for traditional media like Cilizza and many others. She's got the juice. In fact, if Palin isn't part of the Republican presidential party, will anyone tune in?

Take a look at Florida's Senate race, which has Crist in real trouble against Tea Party sanctioned Mark Rubio. A write up in the New York Times marked a moment that takes the Tea Party from fringe group to mainstream dreamland. Rubio now in the spotlight, with Crist, who once embraced Obama, the guy on the outs.

Protesters have been mocking Crist at Tea Party rallies across the state. His opponents play (and replay) video of "The Hug," a killer clip from last February in which the governor, while introducing President Obama in Fort Myers, happened to engage in a quickie man-embrace with the new commander-in-chief on the podium... When I mentioned "The Hug" to Crist, it was as close as I came to seeing him annoyed. "Obviously some people focus on it," Crist said as we rode in the back of his S.U.V. after a Veterans Day event in Pembroke Pines.

It took less than a year for a hug from Pres. Obama to become the Lieberman kiss equivalent of political death on the right, and Sarah's not missing a beat.

While I keep wondering... The GOP establishment took a trip to Crawford to hand pick George W. Bush, who was then tutored and spoon fed Paul Wolfowitz's and Dick Cheney's neoconservatism. Why don't Republicans do that with Sarah Palin, especially since she's already emotionally connected with a loyal following of voters? She's certainly no dumber than Bush.

Sarah Palin simply isn't as pliant.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst, with podcasts available on iTunes.