Sarah Palin's best shot at the presidency could come as a result of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg entering the 2012 fray as an independent candidate, according to New York Magazine's John Heilemann.
Heilemann contends that Bloomberg, who flirted with the idea of a presidential bid in 2008 (and is said to be considering one for 2012), might be encouraged to enter the race if President Obama suffers a "further slide" in popularity and Palin is nominated to the Republican ticket.
While Bloomberg may not be able to win, he argues, the mayor would "stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California" due to his billion-dollar fortune as well as his reputation for economic competence and social liberalism.
Were Bloomberg to do so, it would siphon expected electoral votes from the president, who "might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win."
"Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives - which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans," writes Heilemann. "The result: Hello, President Palin!"
It's worth keeping in mind that the president is not currently particularly unpopular for a president at this stage in his term, especially in light of the relative unpopularity of the stimulus package and health care bill. It is also not yet known to what degree he will be able to cast himself as trying to work with Republicans following the midterm elections. If he can cast himself as reaching across the aisle, there will be less of an opening for Bloomberg.
The White House has reached out to Bloomberg in recent months in what some see as an effort to keep him close: Over the summer, he was seen golfing with Mr. Obama on Martha's Vineyard, and his name has been floated as a potential future Treasury secretary. Vice president Joe Biden and current Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner have even solicited the mayor's advice on job growth and economic policy, which they discussed over breakfast at Gracie Mansion last August.
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.