Andrew Sullivan, who thought as I did that Perry did poorly, thinks (natch) that it "gives Palin an opening." I'll say one thing: whether it's Palin or Jeb or Thune or Barbour or Daniels or Huck, it's hard to believe that any of the sort-ofs (past and present) looked at the debate and couldn't picture themselves winning solidly. As regular readers know, I like thinking about the incentives that politicians see but don't try to get inside their heads beyond that…all I'd say is that if Palin is on the fence between becoming an all-in candidate or not, I'm pretty confident that the debate pushes her towards yes.
One reason I think she may well still run is not just that it's who she is, but the vehemence of the Republican political and media establishment's hostility to her candidacy. That'll goad her some more. And remember: her cult following is larger than Ron Paul's, her fundamentalist cred is deeper than even Rick Perry's, and her ambition and vanity are boundless.
Reading some "conservative" responses to Perry this morning – cheering him when he seemed to me to be throwing away any chance in a general election – it occurred to me they're protesting too much. They fear her too. Imagine a long primary campaign in which she tears apart the base and the establishment, wins and is unelectable or loses and runs as a Tea Party candidate instead. No Palin scenario is good for the GOP. Which is why they are quietly trying to strangle her candidacy (et vos, Ann and Laura?) before it can even begin.