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Posted at 10:30 PM ET, 05/27/2011

West Wing briefing: Why Democrats would like Palin to run

Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (L) acknowledges the crowd during a campaign rally for John McCain, at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona in this March 26, 2010 file photo. (JOSHUA LOTT - REUTERS)
Will the White House get its favorite Republican candidate?

Last October, top White House adviser David Plouffe told reporters of the 2012 GOP contest: “These guys are going to be running through hoops to please the far-right folks who are kind of the acolytes of Sarah Palin. Now maybe she’ll be running herself. Something tells me we won’t get that lucky.”

He might be wrong. The former Alaska governor launches a tour of the Northeast this weekend in what could be the first sign of a presidential run.

Palin may not win the Republican nomination even if she enters. But top Democrats believe her candidacy would help them even if she did not win, forcing the other Republicans to take more conservative positions than they would otherwise to compete with Palin among GOP activists.

Even without Palin in the race, the candidates are trying to cover their right flanks, as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said Thursday he would definitely have voted for the controversial budget plan Republicans approved earlier this year.

Of course, a Palin candidacy would not guarantee victory for Obama in 2012. In last year’s congressional elections, Democrats constantly spoke of how GOP primary contests were pushing the eventual nominees to the right. But many of those nominees won the general elections and now sit in the U.S. House and Senate. Similarly, it’s not clear that Pawlenty, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or other candidates would be pushed so far to the right they could not win the election in 2012.

A Palin candidacy might help the Obama campaign in another way: firing up the Democratic base. Grass-roots donations for Obama spiked in 2008 when Palin was put on the ticket by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). If Palin announced this year, Democrats would immediately start sending fundraising appeals raising the specter of a Palin presidency.

Romney, Pawlenty and the rest of the current GOP field are largely unknown figures; Palin’s entry into the race would change that.

In Europe

On his fifth day in Europe, the president will finish up meetings of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and then head to Warsaw, Poland, where he will attend a dinner with Central and Eastern European leaders.

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By Perry Bacon Jr.  |  10:30 PM ET, 05/27/2011

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