The 2010 election season has barely begun, but the shocking upset by the Sarah Palin–like (and Palin-backed) Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell in Delaware has pundits looking ahead at 2012. And what a growing number see, with delight or dismay, is Palin emerging as the inevitable GOP presidential nominee. Given the Tea Party's evident muscle and its allegiance to Palin, says Paul Mirengoff in PowerLine, "the nomination is Sarah Palin's to lose." Is Palin 2012 a foregone conclusion? (Watch Jon Stewart's take)

Who could beat Palin now? "I haven't wanted to believe this," says David Frum at Frum Forum, but such declarations are "looking prophetic" after O'Donnell's win. The other GOP options for 2012 — Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and the best nominee we'll never have: Mitch Daniels — are tainted by their belief in science and the realities of the political landscape. Republican voters seem determined to make Palin our next Barry Goldwater.
"Is Palin now the 2012 frontrunner?"

It's too soon to make the call: "Palin is not as unelectable as O'Donnell," says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic. But O'Donnell is "kind of a more Palin-y Palin," and her campaign can be seen as a "dry run for Palin '12." Watch what lessons the GOP establishment and Tea Party base draw from O'Donnell's loss. That, and "the state of the economy in 2012," hold the keys to Palin's political fortunes.
"Christine O'Donnell '10, a dry run for Palin '12"

Watch for the hangover: Palin's "career rises or falls" on one big question, says Michael Wolff in Newser. As more and more 2010 voters giddily "depart the mainstream — does the euphoria and joie de guerre last through the night?" This year the political "mainstream" is "a handicapped place," and the fringe is an exciting realm of "political plasticity and fabulousness." But a lot can happen in two years.
"Was last night good for Sarah Palin?"

O'Donnell is part of Palin's master plan: Palin's enviable track record of picking (and making) winners this year will help her regardless, says Shushannah Walshe in The Daily Beast. When (not if) she runs in 2012, those indebted soldiers in her "upstart army" will be a valuable asset. And "if Palin's endorsees are elected this fall and in office come 2012, it would be easier for her to govern" — as President Palin.
"Palin's wins stoke White House run"