Douthat's reading of the landscape:
Romney is a vulnerable frontrunner, and there’s room (as I’ve suggested before) for another candidate to swoop in and serve as the bridge between moderates and conservatives instead. But he still has to be considered the front-runner and note that when he’s at his weakest, it isn’t Palin who reaps the greatest benefits but the persistently underestimated Huckabee. (Besides Illinois, the other state where Huckabee leads is Pennsylvania: He polls at a robust 23 percent there, while Palin and Romney tie at 16 percent.) I’m skeptical that any of these candidates will take the nomination, in the end: I think it’s more likely that the eventual winner will emerge from the Daniels-Pawlenty-Jon Thune pack (or the Chris Christie-Jeb Bush-Paul Ryan pack, if you want to get more imaginative). But from an oddsmaker’s perspective, I think you have to rank Palin third, behind Romney and Huckabee and possibly behind Gingrich as well.
The theory seems to be that all of the front-runners are flawed in some way, which is undoubtedly true. But if one of the front-runners flops in some way once the campaign actually begins, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be one of the other front-runners who would pick up their slack: if Sarah Palin’s campaign gets off to a poor start, for instance, it is probably Mr. Gingrich not Mr. Pawlenty or Mr. Thune who would get first dibs on her votes.