The Missed Opportunity Of Sarah Palin : The Visible Man Let's just go ahead and call this thing for Barack Obama. If I've done my math correctly, I'm giving him 369 electoral votes. Clinton-esque numbers.
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The Missed Opportunity Of Sarah Palin

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks during a campaign rally at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla., on Sunday. Matt Stroshane/Getty Images hide caption

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Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Let's just go ahead and call this thing for Barack Obama. If I've done my math correctly, I'm giving him 369 electoral votes. Clinton-esque numbers.

Now, if you have no interest in talking about the "other side" of politics, consider the above your takeaway.

Take it. Go away (but please come back some other time) while I lament the short, could-have-been-brilliant career of Sarah Palin.

Over the past eight years, the Republican Party has imploded. In this election cycle, the conservative intelligentsia has effectively split from the "base," that portion of the party that is seemingly "excited" or "energized" not by issues of war or oil or the economy but by those that forge a social wedge. Add to that the shifting demographics of America and the Republican Party's woeful inability to attract people of color, and there is a very real possibility that for the foreseeable future the Republicans will be reduced to a nonentity within politics.

The Republicans desperately need their Barack Obama.

It could have been Sarah Palin.

Could have been, except for John McCain's gut-check, Hail Mary, game-changing, unvetted decision to take an inexperienced "small town" politician and dump her on the national stage with little more than 60 days to go before votin' time.

Palin instantly struck a chord with the "don't care about nothing except 'values' " portion of the party. What Palin brought to the ticket was an ability to blunt the Democrats' message of change — personified by Obama and Hillary Clinton and even Bill Richardson on a national level — while being able to speak the language of "values" with the GOP base.

However — token hire that she was — Palin 1.0 alienated Republicans who don't support affirmative action that puts the underqualified at the front of the line. (And I give those Republicans credit for at least being consistent on the question of capability.)

And no matter her folksy ways, in those 60 or so days, Palin got stung by some controversies, nontroversies and gaffes. Same as any other politician and, for that matter, anybody who's in the eye of the media storm 1,439 minutes of each day. But when all that happens on your first date with America and is further exacerbated by the Liberal-Elite-Sexist-Gotcha-Not-Pro-America-Part-Of-America media that you mostly refuse to talk to, what chance do you really have?

Truthfully, seriously, can you imagine what it might have been like if — starting at this year's Republican National Convention, much as with Obama in 2004 — Palin had been given a slow and thoughtful rollout? You don't have to be a Palin supporter to acknowledge — tested, vetted and brought up to speed — she would have been positioned to truly lead her party, as opposed to merely appearing as the illegitimate love child of Dan Quayle and Geraldine Ferraro.

That is not to say Palin couldn't be rehabilitated within the next four years. Hey, if Nixon could make a comeback...

But McCain's missteps, the taint of failure following his loss and questions that will surely linger about the woman herself give much ammunition to those in her own party who would potentially run against her.

Palin's major hurdle in the next cycle will be explaining her "pallin' around" with the AIP, a radical organization that seeks the breakup of the United States.

That is quite a lot, and I haven't even mentioned having to live down the catchphrase "I can see Russia from my house." However, overcoming all of that — as Reagan overcame the vapid actor tag — is only going to make the governor all the stronger. If so, Palin 2.0 will be a force to be reckoned with.