Be afraid. Don't be very afraid. Be a little afraid, in the way perhaps you were when you first saw The Exorcist, unable to look at the screen but cosseted by the knowledge that once the closing credits rolled, the terror would pass with no residual damage done. Be that tiny bit afraid, please, and then lick your lips in gleeful anticipation that along with that delicious frisson of fear will come mirth and merriment beyond imagining. For her name is Sarah Palin and she's running for President.
Yup, she's started. More than two years before the first primary, Alaska's very own Cretina d'Evil has left the starting stalls already. Any lingering doubt that her campaign for the Republican nomination is under way evaporated this week, with the revelation that on Sunday she carved time from her frantic book-signing and publicity tour to go to North Carolina for scripture and Sabbath din- dins with Billy Graham. In the photo, she strokes the ancient preacher's right fist while her toddler Trig nestles on her lap, gazing at the 91-year-old presumably thinking: "I've no idea who you are, old timer, but if you can get the crazy lady who calls herself Mommy into the White House, you're all right with me."
Even with his red phone to heaven, Billy can't do that. No power in this world or the next, one hopes and prays, could. If you asked Jesus, he'd chuckle sardonically and say that, while he could do you some loaves and fishes, and at a pinch even a Lazarus, that one is beyond his pay grade. "I'd ask Dad," Christ might add, "but He'd only come over all Captain Mainwaring and call me a stupid boy."
So determinedly divisive a figure is the former Governor, so beset by suspicions of ethical dodginess, so ill qualified by intellect and temperament, so blinkered in her world view, and so shallow and self-serving in her every pre-scripted word and deed, that there must be more chance of the late Son of Sam taking the electoral college. To those queuing for hours in the freezing cold for her signature on Going Rogue, the mixture of whiny score- settling, half-truths, inventions and nauseating religiosity that constitutes newly published memoir, it looks different. To them and untold millions like them, she is a domestic political goddess, their reflection and representative in the big game. This is why, albeit in a drastically weak ante post field, she is the clear favourite to head the ticket in 2112.
"Like it or not," wrote Matthew Dowd, who knows a thing or two having helped Karl Rove got Dubya relected in 2004, "she has a shot". All she will need, he explains in yesterday's Washington Post, is to turn out a Republican base already in her pocket, to the horror of the Grand Old Party establishment, and win the early primaries Unstoppable momentum would then be hers.
That base has form here, having picked the exceedingly right- wing and sensationally unelectable Barry Goldwater in 1964. It is the loose equivalent of the Conservative membership (technically, the nutters in the country) which in 2001 glanced at Iain Duncan Smith and saw in him their Saviour. To these gin'n'Jag ostriches, heads burrowing into the sand in the search for that elusive time portal back to 1955, the fact that their party had just …