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The Palin Conundrum For Miffed Romney

After the New England Patriots disasterous decision Sunday night not to punt on fourth down with the ball on the Indianapolis Colts' 28-yard line, former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney, had every right to be ticked off. Especially considering that the Pats had the lead with little more than 2 minutes left in the game. Is it possible that the team's supposedly brilliant coach, Bill Belichick, got confused and thought the Manning brother waiting patiently on the opposing sidelines was Eli and not Peyton? Whatever the case, the Colts went on to win the game with 13 seconds left in the game.

But that fit of pique can't compare with the frustration Romney must feel watching the "All Sarah, all the time" frenzy in advance of the official launch date of Going Rogue, Sarah Palin's tell-all account of the 2008 presidential campaign. On paper, it should be a no-brainer. Here's Romney, with that ponderously impressive resume - CEO of the management consultancy Bain & Company, co-founder of private equity investment firm Bain Capital, CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics and governor of the Bay State from 2003 to 2007 - and yet he can't get the time of day. Maybe that will change by next year, but for the moment, north to south, east to west, the Republican faithful only have eyes for the Thriller from Wasilla.

Which is all the more fascinating because a bevy of new polls suggest that Palin's guaranteed to lose if she becomes the Republican Party's nominee in 2012. A CBS poll found that just 23% of Americans now hold a favorable view of the former Alaska Governor and two in three Americans would not like to see Palin run for president against Barack Obama. According to a CNN survey, fewer than three in 10 Americans believe that she's qualified to serve as president. And an ABC/Washington Post poll found that six in 10 Americans say she's unqualified for the post.

Polls, schmolls. Who can deny Palin's electric effect on the conservative wing of the GOP? Forty percent of Republican voters say they have a very favorable opinion of Palin, according to a Rasmussen survey and 59% believe that Palin shares their values. At the same time, there's that special `X' factor to consider. My (entirely unscientific) suspicion is that a good number of these folks who adore Palin delight how she drives liberals batty. Even better, from their perspective, Palin thoroughly enjoys pulling the left's chain, which only enrages them further. The first time she starts winking into the camera, there's a good chance Chris Matthews' head will explode. No such partisan passions would ever attend a Romney candidacy or presidential runs either by Tim Pawlenty or Mike Huckabee.

More Coverage of Sarah Palin's Book:

Exclusive: Palin Accounts Disputed by McCain Aides
Palin Contradicts Her Own Version Of Events With Oprah
Democrats Give Mixed Reactions to Sarah Palin Buzz
Sarah Palin: I Was "Annoyed" by Katie Couric's Newspaper Question
Bob Schieffer on Palin: No Future in Politics
Palin Book Roils Former McCain Aides
Palin "Vindictiveness" in Her New Book?
Palin Publicity Blitz Full Speed Ahead

That doesn't mean Palin could beat Obama in the general election but the true believers, sick of big government and nonstop bailouts, would work night and day for a candidate who speaks their language. Writing about the particular math of the party primaries, Walter Shapiro explains that if Palin is able to maintain roughly 35-percent support, the Republican establishment, while agreeing that a Palin candidacy would lead to an electoral disaster, may not be able to derail her momentum. If she survives the South Carolina primary "with her aura intact – she could theoretically sweep the winner-take-all states without ever winning a majority anywhere," according to Shapiro. That prospect must leave a miffed Romney wondering what he has to do to get a serious hearing.

Long before Iowa and New Hampshire, maybe he'd be better off going rogue as well.

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