Republicans love Sarah Palin--as long as she stays in Alaska, as former first lady Barbara Bush advised her. Her approval rating among Republican voters is 68 percent, the highest among likely GOP candidates in 2012. Her problem, Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen writes, is that "a lot of the Republicans who don't like her--in contrast to the Republicans who don't like Huckabee, Gingrich, or Romney--aren't willing to hold their nose and vote for her in the general election."

PPP polled seven individual states and found that, in a contest between Palin and President Obama, she gets just 77 percent of the Republican vote. That's behind Gingrich, Romney, and Huckabee, despite her greater popularity. "Republicans may hate Barack Obama but there look to be a pretty meaningful percentage of them who don't hate him enough to vote to put Sarah Palin in the White House," Jensen writes. "When you combine that with her complete lack of appeal to Democrats and independents she looks virtually unelectable for 2012."

But despite her poor prospects, Palin continues to flirt with a presidential bid--and to fascinate reporters.

  • She Has a Two-Track Strategy for Holding Our Attention, Time's Jay Newton-Small observes.
While other Republicans followed predictable and even plodding paths toward the White House this year, Palin has moved along two parallel tracks, one befitting a candidate, the other designed for a celebrity. ... A presidential candidate used to need a central headquarters and satellite offices in all the early primary states; now all a contender like Palin needs is a cable modem. Working largely from her lakeside house in Wasilla, Alaska, Palin raised millions of dollars, produced three viral Internet videos and endorsed more than seven dozen Republican candidates (most of whom prevailed).
  • Even Evangelicals Are Nervous About Palin, Newsweek's Arian Campo-Flores points out. "Surveying the crop of would-be Republican presidential contenders in 2012, some Christian leaders can't muster much enthusiasm," Campos-Flores reports. Why? Religious leaders are nervous they'll have "a repeat of 2008, when they failed to unite behind a single candidate and ended up diluting their strength. ... The two potential contenders with the most grassroots support are Palin and Huckabee." Both have massive followings and helpful TV gigs, but "each has been criticized for running ineffectual, sometimes chaotic, organizations." And key evangelical leader Richard Land says he worries Palin can't beat Obama--too many people dislike her.
  • Curiously, in Missouri, Palin Gets McCain's Votes, The National Review's Henry Olsen writes. He compares PPP's poll of Missouri with the 2008 Missouri GOP primary returns. It looks like Huckabee and Ron Paul "have maintained but not expanded their voter base--and ... Mitt Romney lost nearly half of his." Then he really dives in.
Here's where it gets interesting. One could assume that Newt draws his 15 percent in the PPP poll largely from those who supported Romney in 2008 given the profile each candidate has. Indeed, Newt's 15 percent plus Romney's 14 percent exactly equals the 29 percent Romney received in 2008. If this is true, that means that Sarah Palin is the heiress of the bulk of John McCain's support. It will be interesting to see if this poll is an outlier or if support for one of the 'two mavericks' is transferrable to the other nationwide.
  • Palin Trying to Distinguish Herself from Other Contenders, The Hill's Michael O'Brien writes. Palin "signaled her opposition to the tax-cut deal favored by President Obama, staking out ground in a debate that is certain to shape the 2012 campaign landscape. Palin seemed to cast her lot with the handful of conservatives who have come out against the agreement hashed out by the White House and congressional Republicans. ... White House press secretary Robert Gibbs noted Palin's comments in his daily briefing Wednesday, saying, 'I don't know if you guys got Sarah Palin's tweet, but it does not appear she likes the deal.'"
  • Could She Tackle Obama on Foreign Policy?  Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton wouldn't directly answer the question when asked by The National Review's Robert Costa. But Bolton cautioned:
We have to acknowledge that Obama goes into the 2012 campaign with a huge advantage, having been commander-in-chief... He will have the pictures from, for example, his most recent visit to Afghanistan. He will be able to talk the talk. What we need is a candidate who can show that despite the glitz and the glamour, he has not walked the walk. That is the key.
  • Rick Santorum Is Watching Palin, Sean J. Miller reports at The Hill. Santorum thinks he could get Palin's evangelical votes, if he could just get some attention. "He called the former Alaska governor a 'larger-than-life figure,' but said that could cause her problems when campaigning in small, early primary states such as South Carolina and Iowa. 'She is such a media star, I would think it's hard for her to have normal interactions' with voters, he said."