I don't think Sarah Palin understands that she's just a prop. I think she really does believe the hype the Republican Party has constructed around her. We'll see more and more of this emerge as the fault line between her and McCain cracks open. Each will blame the other for the loss, and Palin especially will believe she is the "future" of the Party.
Sarah Palin in 2012? Ha ha ha! That would be hilarious. The Jesus Camp fascist crowd will still pretend that they are anything but a fanatical pack of miserable closeted losers, a small minority left behind in a 21st Century America.
Right now, my guess that that the Republicans' 2012 candidate will be purely American Taliban. I say bring on these fascist fuckers. We're going to beat them back into the shadows for the rest of their lives. We can beat them again.