Every time someone writes the story about how badly Sarah Palin would be clobbered in the general election based on current polling, I'm going to do an item pointing out that it's based on a major fallacy.
This time it's WaPo's Rachel Weiner, telling us that "A series of state polls released over the last few weeks suggest that if Republicans nominate former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2012 it could hand President Obama a considerable electoral vote margin next November."
Look, this is really simple. Sarah Palin has receive essentially zero positive nationwide publicity for over two years. Consequently, she's very unpopular -- including among GOP primary voters. Therefore, she will not be nominated for president unless something changes.
If, however, something changes, and she becomes popular enough to win the nomination, then she will also be more popular overall. What's more, if that happens, she will receive all sorts of positive publicity -- that's what happens to candidates who win key primaries! And, in turn, that will stand to make her even more popular overall.
Of course, that's no guarantee that she would be a competitive nominee, or even that she would be basically comparable to any other potential nominee. She could certainly also win the nomination and then stumble; what's more, it is at least theoretically possible that she could win the nomination by narrowly targeting a slim majority of Republicans while alienating everyone else.
But those are possibilities, only. It's much more likely that if she wins the nomination -- and, granted, that looks less likely every day she fails to do the things one must do to win presidential nominations -- she'll have a very different national image than she does right now.
This is true, by the way, for every possible nominee. Which means that looking at horse race polling between Barack Obama and potential GOP nominees is utterly useless at this point. Whatever Mitt Romney, or Tim Pawlenty, or Rick Perry, or Sarah Palin looks like by August 2012 just doesn't have all that much to do with what they look like now.