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Sarah Palin: Going Rogue to the White House Or Someplace Else?

When people dismiss Sarah Palin out of hand, I keep thinking one thing -- remember the last politician we scoffed at as not even close to being competent enough for the White House?
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Sarah Palin in 2012? Some are chuckling, but they might want to rethink their take on the first woman on a GOP presidential ticket.

Conservative pundit David Brooks laughed out loud at the suggestion, calling her a "joke". Others point to 2008 wannabes Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee as more qualified and doing better in polls than Palin when people talk about GOP Presidential hopefuls. Of course, most thought that quitting her day job as Alaska Governor was the death knell for her political career, but I think this is just the beginning of Palin's national political career. After all, she was just on Oprah!

Seriously, as I have to remind some who've accused me of being a closet Republican, I'm no political fan of Palin. But when people dismiss her out of hand, I keep thinking one thing -- remember the last politician we scoffed at as not even close to being competent enough for the White House?

Yup -- George W. Bush. And then we said, "Oh, well, at least he'll only be a one-termer like his father." We were 0 for 2 on that front.

It turns out that the "smart" Bush wasn't the one people related to -- as a nation, we preferred the baseball-loving, brush-clearing, recovering-beer-swilling-guy. More people liked Bush because even though he has two Ivy League degrees, they saw the "common" man in him, and that made them connect with him in a Dr. Phil sort of way.

People also related to Barack Obama in spite of his Harvard degree because he, too, had a good dose of the "everyman" in his life story -- son of a single mom from middle America who struggled with his identity and didn't have things just handed to him on a platter.

But voters wouldn't find a working class story appealing with Palin, right? Think again. There are plenty of voters who find her accessible and according to a recent Rasmussen poll, a majority of Republicans like her and think she shares their values. You can "betcha" Palin will use that angle for all it's worth. According to an excerpt in the New York Times from her book, Going Rogue:

We know what it's like to be on a tight budget and wonder how we're going to pay for our health care, let alone college tuition. ... We know what it's like to work union jobs, to be blue-collar, white-collar, to have our kids in public schools. We felt our very normalcy, our status as ordinary Americans, could be a much-needed fresh breeze blowing into Washington, D.C.

Plus there are still plenty of women who are smarting over Hillary Clinton's loss and who just might vote for Palin if she's the candidate in 2012 because they don't want to wait one more second to see a woman in charge of the Oval Office.

Don't laugh too hard! Democrats aren't doing such a bang up job at the moment -- they're dragging their feet on Paycheck Fairness, throwing reproductive health under the bus and we still aren't further on paid sick days even though we're all spreading the swine flu to each other like wildfire.

Palin is a wily one so I'm not counting her out for 2012, but I wonder if she's got something else on her agenda. I'm betting that being President is a little too much real work for her and that she's angling for something else.

My official prediction is that Palin wants Michael Steele's job as head of the Republican National Committee. Even though Steele has taken his share of jabbing and isn't the most effective one, the position of RNC Chair can be an extremely powerful position -- maybe even more powerful than President when it comes to selecting candidates for races around the country. Plus, you don't have to worry about all those pesky voters, campaign debates and whistle-stop tours! One of the most important roles of a party chair is to be fundraiser-in-chief and that's something that Palin has proven she excels at.

As much as many would like to dismiss her from the national stage (myself included), Palin isn't going quietly. Whether you like her or not, one has to acknowledge the power in that. Whether she runs for President in 2012 or sets her sights on some other political plum, she'll definitely have plenty of pocket change to look for a pied-a-terre in the lower 48 where she can set up base camp.

What do you think? Are Palin's 15 minutes up or is she the new secret weapon to lure women back to the Grand Old Party?

Joanne Bamberger is a political anaylst and writer in Washington, D.C. and the founder of PunditMom blog, a site about the intersection of motherhood and politics. Her work appears in the just released, Kirtsy Takes a Bow: A Celebration of Women's Online Favorites and she is at work on a book about political motherhood (Bright Sky Press, Fall 2010).