Sarah Palin has done wonders for Republican fundraising and enthusiasm in this low-turnout, base-determined midterm election. She's helpful, now, so the party won't dare criticize her. But that'll end! Because party leaders don't want her anywhere near their presidential nomination.

Politico has one of the first reports of many you're likely to read, over and over again, for the next few months at least, as other GOP presidential contenders anonymously work through reporters to hammer home their preferred (and pretty much correct!) message that Sarah Palin can't win a presidential election:

Interviews with advisers to the main 2012 presidential contenders and with other veteran Republican operatives make clear they see themselves on a common, if uncoordinated, mission of halting the momentum and credibility Palin gained with conservative activists by plunging so aggressively into this year's midterm campaigns.

There is rising expectation among GOP elites that Palin will probably run for president in 2012 and could win the Republican nomination, a prospect many of them regard as a disaster in waiting. [...]

"There is a determined, focused establishment effort … to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin," said one prominent and longtime Washington Republican. "We believe she could get the nomination, but Barack Obama would crush her."

The unemployment rate is expected to be pretty much where it is now, for years. And even if an actual recovery were to pick up by, say, mid-2012, lazy independent voters will have already locked in their impressions by... now, basically. Republicans will want someone who can stay on message about the economy and has enough on-paper credentials to give off an aura of competence and in general won't aggressively fuck this up. This would probably mean Willard "Mittens" Romney, although it's still not really clear how he'll escape a Republican primary, since he invented Obamacare, and is made of cheap plastic. But really anyone would be better, Republicans are thinking, than the candidate who's capable of losing millions of votes for her ticket during a single, lighthearted Katie Couric interview.

Good luck with the anonymous trashing campaign as it progresses, other GOP candidates and Establishment operatives! But don't be too aggressive, because we all know that the more you prod Sarah Palin to not do something, the more likely she is to do it, and in even more bombastic fashion. It would be kind of an admirable trait if this were a contest that didn't reward its winner with a notecard of nuclear launch codes.

[Image via Getty]