Sarah Palin in 2012?

An excellent piece by John Heilemann describes how Sarah Palin could become the next president. Will she run, he asks? She's already running, he answers. Could she get the nomination? You betcha. Well, supposing she goes forward to the general election, could a candidate with such a low national approval rating (barely 20 percent at the moment) actually win? Maybe, so long as she "provoked a credible independent candidacy".

What if the candidacy in question was that of, oh, Michael Rubens Bloomberg? What would happen then?...

Heilemann methodically traces this possible, very intriguing future, and comes down to several possibilities for 2012 :

One scenario, most likely if the economy suffers a double-dip recession, is that the nation would be so desperate for capable economic management that Bloomberg would be able to overcome his vulnerabilities--his short-Jewish-unmarried-plutocratness--and find himself deposited in the Oval Office.

Another scenario, the likeliest, is that Bloomberg's entry would secure the reelection of Obama. "There's enough solid Republicans that even Palin gets between 26 and 30 percent of the vote," forecasts Dowd. "And there's enough solid Democrats that, depending on the economy, Obama gets 40 to 42 percent. That leaves Bloomberg with between 28 and 34 percent, which just isn't enough."

But there is a third scenario, one that involves a more granular kind of analysis-cum-speculation. By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg--especially with the help of his billions--would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives--which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

It's a fascinating speculation. Now, admittedly, analyses like this tend to misdirect: they require a long sequence of possibilities to break the same way, which is much more of a stretch than you suppose as you walk through the story step by plausible step. Still. Interesting.

For what it's worth, if we got the point where Bloomberg did decide to run, Obama continued to make his case mainly to the Democratic base, and Palin continued to seem clueless on substance, I bet Bloomberg would win. I wonder if Heilemann buried the lede.