For Sarah Palin, it’s Tea Party first, Republican Party second:

Some in the GOP, it’s their last shot, it’s their last chance. We will lose faith, and we will be disappointed and disenchanted from them if they start straying from the bedrock principles. … If they start straying, then why not a 3rd party?

A few observations:

1. She’s in, but not as a third-party spoiler. Let me reiterate that I think Palin is almost certainly running for president as a Republican. So does the Romney campaign. So does Weekly Standard reporter and Palin expert Matthew Continetti:

I do [see her running]. I see her endorsing candidates and joining them on the trail, raising money through her political action committee, establishing a national voice through her books and upcoming television series, and engaging the Obama administration through television appearances, Facebook, and Twitter. Palin sees her influence in Republican circles, sees her continued popularity among Republicans, sees the potential weaknesses in Obama, and sees the potential parallels between the 1980 election and the 2012 election. She’s getting ready.

2. She has a shot. I also think she can certainly win the GOP nomination and presidency. The media-created caricature of her has created such a low competence hurdle that she only needs to be as well-spoken/well-versed on policy as the typical member of Congress to clear it.  In fact, she may already be there. And don’t underestimate the Dancing with the Stars factor.  Bristol Palin’s time on the show is allowing America to see a whole another side of the Palin family, one that seems firmly in tune with middle-American culture.

And the bigger the GOP primary field — and it is looking like it could be quite crowded right now — the better it is for her (and Mitt Romney). As for the general, two more years of abnormally high unemployment — twice as high as the typical level for the past generation — has created  for vulnerability for Obama that is hard to measure. But the midterm results will give a big hint.

3.  She has a potent potential agenda. If I were plotting a Palin campaign, I would encourage her to run on a free-market populist agenda. That would mean pushing free trade agreements while attacking Obama for being soft on Chinese protectionism. That would mean advocating less cumbersome financial regulation while attacking Obama for not breaking up the big banks on Wall Street. That would mean advocating lower corporate taxes but reducing corporate loopholes and subsidies. In short, portray Obama as soft on banks, China and big business.  That, and him being a big spender and taxer who has failed to turn around the U.S. economy, natch.

4. She’s Ronald Reagan — at least a smidge. Palin frequently invokes the name of the 40th president. Of course, she can’t match his decades of debating public issues before winning the presidency in 1980. But like RR, Palin has been maligned and downgraded by the media and punditocracy. But when Reagan stood next to Jimmy Carter and got to make his case in his own words, opinions changed.