They once saw her as an adorable, spunky, harmless base-rallying figure, but the Republican establishment that created the Sarah Palin monster is now determined to stop her at all costs. After the 2008 election—and especially after she resigned as governor of Alaska—most Republican strategists assumed Palin wasn't serious about running for president, Politico's Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei report. "But nonchalance has turned to alarm among party elites in 2010, as Palin repeatedly showed her clout among a key bloc of anti-establishment conservatives," Allen and Vandehei write.

Party officials think Palin, boosted by her endorsement of candidates who knocked off their moderate Republican opponents, could win the primary only to be crushed by President Obama. How to take her down? The first step will be to strengthen the establishment by dumping Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. Then party elites will coalesce around an anti-Palin candidate who'll run on competence and job creation. "The establishment-vs.-activists narrative is hardly novel in presidential primaries," they write. "What's different this time is that the anti-establishment candidate—Palin—would enter with unmatched celebrity and media advantages, at a time when the establishment is weaker than it’s been in many years." Several candidates (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, John Thune, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Haley Barbour) could potentially seize the moderate mantle. "It's a total jump ball," a strategist told Politico. "Someone who is at 2 percent could wind up getting it." Will the establishment's man be strong enough to slay the Palin beast?

  • The Party Establishment's Impotent, James Joyner writes at Outside the Beltway. "Aside from getting behind a single, alternative candidate early and persuading everyone else to drop out of the race, I’m not sure what it is the Establishment can do," Joyner writes. Politico says party leaders plan to strengthen the RNC—but what good would that do? The committee doesn't endorse or fund primary candidates. Furthermore, "the Republican nominating process, specifically designed to give a huge advantage to early frontrunners by awarding delegates on a winner-take-all basis, could have the perverse effect of nominating the candidate that a majority thinks would be a disaster. ... The Establishment’s best hope, aside from Palin deciding she wants to be the next Oprah rather than the next Obama, is for another candidate with strong Tea Party appeal to run and split that voting bloc." Mike Huckabee could fill that role, if he still has the juice.
  • Tuesday Could Boost Palin's Cachet  Sandra Fish writes at Politics Daily. Her politicking this year "is as much about raising Palin's visibility as it is about helping her fellow Mama and Papa Grizzlies. Sarah PAC gave a mere $320,000 to candidates between June 2009 and Oct. 13, only 6.4 percent of her total take through that time." Palin spent most of her money on consultants, fundraising and stumping around the country instead, building a big list of potential donors. But, her endorsements still matter. "The success of Palin’s candidates—especially those in close races—on Tuesday will contribute to her cachet as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012. Certainly, many of those who received her endorsement—and the occasional cash that went with it—may be likely to return the favor two years down the road."
  • Party Elites Just Don't Get It, Dan Riehl fumes at Riehl World View. Republicans think they're going to win a ton of seats Tuesday because of Obama's unpopularity. "If they genuinely understood the depth of anger focused more on them, than, say, specific support for Palin, they'd realize they won't really be on offense in the sense they believe they will be after election day. It isn't simply about Palin. Taken as a whole, the people coming for this particular GOP establishment are less invested in protecting, or pushing, Sarah Palin, than they are determined to take them down. Palin supporters are only one brigade of a much larger army that has no intentions of standing down post-November."
  • Palin Is Still Deeply Unpopular with Most Voters, Hotline On Call's Reid Wilson writes. What last-minute strategy are embattled congressional Democrats using to hold onto their seats? Invoking Palin. "No one in American politics engenders stronger feelings than Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. Republicans love her, but Democrats and independents view her unfavorably with equal intensity," Wilson writes. Only 38 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Palin; 54 percent view her unfavorably. Democratic incumbents "are spending their final days campaigning as much against the former Alaska governor as against their Republican rivals."
  • A Palin Victory Is Far From Inevitable, Michael Tomasky writes for the Guardian. Palin won't have familiar targets to blame her problems on. "In a several-candidate GOP field, she's going to be attacked, naturally, since she would start out as one of the leaders in the polls, or perhaps the leader. In that case, answering criticisms from Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and so on, she couldn't blame liberals or the lame-stream media. ... So in other words, the core of her identity - that she embodies right-wing anger about what liberals have done to America - would be stripped from her in the context of a GOP primary. Does this make sense? Since she couldn't paint her GOP opponents as liberals who wanted to weaken America etc etc., what card could she play? The gender card I guess, but I don't think that gets very far in a GOP primary either."
  • On the Other Hand, There's the Unthinkable, Dan Amira warns at Daily Intel. "Meanwhile, Democrats, who loathe and fear Palin even more, are hoping she wins the nomination for the same reasons. They'd love for her to get that far, and no further. Then again, maybe that's too close for comfort. If she somehow finds a way to beat Obama and actually becomes ... no, let's not think about that for now. "