Sarah Palin coming to Marshall County? Sure, I could see it.
And, no, that's not a punchline.
Palin, the former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor who's now getting out and around the lower 48 states promoting a book, might be the Republican Party's best weapon when it comes to raising money. Supporters love what they see as as a combination of common-sense approach to family values, coupled with an awful lot of charisma.
Even when Palin was governor of Alaska, conservative groups would pay dearly to have her come speak at their rallies. A young, energetic conservative Christian woman who hunts and fishes? Where do we sign?
Of course, there's a downside. And we'll get to that in a moment.
Consider that with less than a year to go until the 2010 elections, Marshall County figures to be involved in two pretty important traces. Republicans would love to find a way to unseat Rep. Bart Gordon in the U.S. House, while the Tennessee gubernatorial race also has the makings of a doozy.
Gordon has held the seat since 1984, but might be vulnerable after a somewhat shaky performance during his August Town Halls. He has had a murky position on the recent health-care bill approved by the House, but voted against the final bill that has since been sent to the Senate.
It's easy to see the eventual Republican challenger bringing in Palin to try and win. And while Palin's presence might be more needed in more populous areas of the district, a trip to Marshall or Bedford counties -- where she would fill a public square with avid supporters -- might be worth it.
After all, half of winning an election is getting your base to show up.
The race for governor has the same sort of overtones. Zach Wamp and Ron Ramsey lead a list of Republican candidates in what could be the closest governor's race since Ned Ray McWherter's first victory in 1986.
After Gov. Phil Bredesen swept all 95 Tennessee counties in 2006, Republicans would love nothing more than to reclaim the office. Look for the race to have shades of the 2006 Senate matchup, when Bob Corker beat Harold Ford by a handful of percentage points.
Once again, Palin's presence could be huge in that race.
But for all her fundraising mastery, Palin has a long-term downside: she'd be an extremely poor 2012 presidential candidate. How do I know this? For starters, she was an extremely poor 2008 vice-presidential candidate.
Palin, whose autobiography was a No. 1-bestseller even before it was released to the public, has taken slams at everyone from Katie Couric to John McCain's top political adviser. In the wake of last year's presidential campaign in which McCain-Palin briefly led, only to watch Barack Obama pull away down the stretch, the blame game still continues.
Through all the Palin drama, there is one undeniable common thread: it's never Palin's fault (at least not in her eyes).
The problem with the I'm-the-victim-card -- and she plays it more than any other -- is that those who utilize it can't really hope to effectively to lead anything. Her presidency would be a four-year argument of whether or not the office is deserved, and not four years of actual inspired governance.
The American public knows she lacks the emotional or intellectual maturity to lead the free world. In a recent poll, 60 percent of Americans said Palin is unqualified to be president. With a number like that, GOP leaders know that to nominate her would virtually guarantee an Obama second term. So while it's great to have Palin as a party leader, it's bad to have her as THE party leader.
Since 2010 comes before 2012, my guess is Republicans will try to ride Palin-mania as far as it can carry them.
Perhaps it will carry them all the way to Marshall County.