What's up next for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin regarding the 2012 presidential election?
Well, if you're thinking that Sarah Palin will soon join the field of Republican hopefuls seeking the party's nod to challenge President Barack Obama, think again.
More than likely, the not-running-but-I-may-be-running-I-haven't-decided-whether-to-run Palin will remain in precisely that status.
Here's why -- from least to most important -- Palin is not running, but won't announce, for a long time, that she's not running,
5. Palin Inc. If and as soon as Gov. Palin said she's not running, the stock value or marketing value of Palin Inc. would drop substantially.
Speaking fees, other future royalties, and related perks are considerably higher for a public figure who may obtain a major political party's nomination for the U.S. presidency. Media coverage also would decrease, and that can affect book sales, hence from a brand-value standpoint, don't expect Palin to announce that she's not running until she absolutely has to.
4. Status in the Tea Party faction. By not announcing that she's not running, Palin remains the de-facto leader -- or at least the co-leader along with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. -- of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.
As soon as Palin announces that she's not running, again, there would be an inevitable loyalty transfer by least some Tea Party voters from Palin to Bachmann, who is running for the 2012 Republican nomination.
3. Leverage over the 2012 GOP nominee. By extension, by not announcing that she's not running, Palin retains leverage over Tea Party faction delegates to the 2012 Republican Party Convention.
That leverage could prove to be pivotal, if, in the unlikely event one of the curent Republican candidates does not secure a majority of the delegates before the convention in Tampa, Fla., in September, and the result is a brokered convention.
Also, even if a Republican secures a majority of the delegates (likely), Palin could still threaten to recommend that her Tea Party delegates not apportioned by popular primaries not support the presumptive Republican Party nominee until Palin gets a plum or two. These could include: changes in the party's platform, a commitment by the nominee to support any one or several Tea Party faction causes (commitment to an amendment to the U.S. Constitution calling for a balanced budget, a no tax increase pledge, or some other commitment to cut federal spending).
Brokered convention or not, Palin wants to hold influence over Tea Party delegates to the 2012 Republican convention certainly through the convention's end.
2. Jockey for cabinet post, or more. By not announcing that she's not running, Palin can also threaten to recommend that her Tea Party delegates not support the presumptive Republican Party nominee until she is guaranteed a U.S. Cabinet post in any Republican administration or some other plum. Palin may even attempt to bargain for a vice presidential nomination from the presumptive 2012 Republican nominee.
1. 2012 GOP election math. Finally, the main reason Palin will not announce that she's not running is electoral. Palin, at this stage, only has a slight chance of securing the GOP nod, hence a Palin-GOP run won't occur.
Even more significant, Palin will not run as a third-party candidate, a la former Alabama Gov. George Wallace or business executive Ross Perot, as the Tea Party's nominee, or even on an unaffiliated ticket, such as a Palin Party or One America party, and the reason is obvious enough: A third-party run would divide or at least fracture the conservative vote, making it much more likely that President Obama would win re-election.
Above all, Palin does not want to splinter the conservative vote.
Therefore, look for Palin to maintain her current haven't decided status. Moreover, in the history of modern U.S. presidential campaigns, Palin may set the record for the longest haven't decided of any potential presidential candidate.
From Palin's standpoint, her best move is to not make one.