Will Sarah Palin run for Arizona’s open Senate seat?

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Earlier this year, we were critical of Sarah Palin’s 2012 presidential aspirations. Still, we think there is certainly a place for her on the ticket next year. It is just not where most of you might expect.

According to The Arizona Republic, Palin could be contemplating a run for the open seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jon Kyl in the Grand Canyon State.

While this is only a rumor at this stage, and it is probably being pushed by Arizona Democrats who are looking to increase their party’s war chest, we believe it has legs.

This is a path well blazed by nationally renowned politicians with senatorial ambitions, and it is quite common for folks to relocate to Arizona to start over. Assuming Palin can meet the residency requirements, the Southwest might be fertile ground for her brand of politics.

Given the frontier nature of the Arizona electorate (family values, ardent supporters of the Second Amendment, Protestant leanings), Palin’s fundraising abilities, and her charisma on the stump, Palin will certainly have advantages in the GOP nomination race. Representative Jeff Flake is the only Republican who has officially declared for the 2012 race, but several other names have been floated including Congressman Trent Franks and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

To be honest, Palin can defeat all three potential rivals if she is able to develop a coherent campaign message that appeals to a broad slice of Arizona’s relatively conservative electorate. Fortunately for Flake and company, a recent statewide poll indicates this won’t necessarily be an easy task for Palin as her unfavorables in Arizona are quite high. But never underestimate Mrs. Palin, because with Sarah, trust us, anything is possible.

For those who think we’ve completely lost our minds, there is a strategic benefit to the GOP to having Palin on the 2012 ballot in Arizona.

Team Obama wants to expand the list of 2012 presidential battleground states, and the Grand Canyon State is clearly in their sights. Right now Arizona is in GOP hands, and the Obama folks are wise enough to know that if the eventual Republican presidential nominee has to backtrack and campaign on a regular basis in Arizona, then President Obama improves his re-election odds.

If Palin is able to secure the GOP nomination for Senate, her candidacy could be a game changer, because she would give Team Obama fits in the Grand Canyon State or even push them to drop it off their list of potential conquest states.

According to political prognosticator Larry Sabato, the Arizona Senate race currently “Leans Republican.” Unfortunately, there is a wildcard in this scenario. If Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords happens to jump into the Arizona Senate race, then all bets would be off and Palin would be better served by focusing her attention elsewhere in 2012.

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are co-founders of CivicForumPAC and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.