Well, you've got at least 3 strains of conservatism fighting for the national platform:
Fiscal conservatism (e.g., Romney), that may be flexible on some social issues
Social conservatism (e.g., Huckabee), that may have a populist economic bent
Tea party conservatism (and Palin is their self-appointed leader), that hates wall street, but hates government intervention enough to probably not be too keen on the entire social conservative agenda.
Throw foreign policy into the mix, and you have both hawkish neoconservatives and Heritage society relative isolationists in all three groups, all at odds with one another.
How these factions agree on one candidate for president is beyond me. In 2008, they went with the least objectionable candidate and got creamed. Romney will fare no better this time around; he has no cred outside of fiscal conservative circles. So, who do you have? Pawlenty? Huckabee again? McDonnell, the new VA governor? Jindal? The pickins are slim.
But to get back to Palin, what she's good at is bashing Obama. That will score her a lot of points with pissed-off conservatives. But if the republicans actually want to win an election, they've got to do more than put forth a candidate that the small-town red-staters (mostly social conservatives and tea-party types) can get behind. They've got to run a candidate that won't scare off independents, and I don't know if the far right wing is going to let one of those candidates get out of the primaries, especially after the McCain debacle, and, after the 2010 midterms in which conservative candidates in this slowly-recovering economy will do very well. But by 2012, I think the economy will be a lot stronger, and Obama will be in position to take the credit.
Should be an interesting next few years.
one thing you missed is that in naming your candidates for conservatives...you only suggested republicans...conservatism lives on both sides of the aisle...
palin, plain and simple... is a celebrity..she's going to sell books, give speeches and that is about it. why the ad lib media is so obsessed with her is silly...but it does sell light bulbs for g.e. and they in turn make her a great deal of money...got to love capitalism.
True, but I wasn't really thinking beyond 2012. Do you really think Obama is going to get a primary challenger from his right, or that a Democrat is going to start a centrist third party? In 2016, I could see a guy like Mark Warner getting the democratic nod, and he's a business-savvy moderate, if not a conservative. I'm not sure who really fits in the category of "conservative democrat" anymore. You might have Democrats who take a conservative position or two (2d Amendment, "family values," or something), but I can't think of any Democrats who fit the "preservation-of-the-status-quo" definition of conservatism, other than perhaps Arlen Specter, who seems to have switched parties out of short-sighted political expediency (I'm sure you'll LOVE running as a Democrat in 2010, Arlen); I'm not sure if he counts.
And the fascination with Palin is not just on the liberal side. Living in rural Virginia during the 2008 election season, I saw "I'm voting for the chick" signs on lawns all over the Shenandoah Valley -- the locals were much more excited about her than McCain. Plus, she's on Fox News, and headlining the Tea Party Convention, for crying out loud! The main liberal fascination is -- "Wow, are there really that many ignorant morons in this country?" I know the left has its share of fools as well, but even Nader couldn't crack 3% in 2000; I bet Sara would get 20% as an independent in 2012, in Ross Perot territory, without having a single defining idea. What would her platform be, beyond a collection of trite anti-Obama one-liners (which, I must say, she executes well, and I think is the real reason for her stardom: her channeling of the anti-Obama rage)?