John Lott gets it:
Unfortunately, over the last couple of weeks, even conservative media pundits such as Mona Charen, Peggy Noonan, George Will, Joe Scarborough and Matt Labash see these attacks and warn that she can’t win the presidency. They even buy into the attacks on her judgment, intelligence, and competence. But what these conservatives don’t appreciate is that Palin is being attacked because she is smart and effective, not because she is dumb.
[. . .]
What Palin’s conservative critics need to recognize is that any other candidate who posed the same threat to Democrats would also be attacked as viciously. The desire to give up on Palin and move on to another potential Republican presidential nominee is understandable. But there is a reason why the media wants to take Palin out.
His column is worth reading in full.
Anyone who thinks that a turning away from Palin by libertarian/conservative/independent voters would bolster prospects for other Republicans is delusional. The abandonment under fire of a candidate by her erstwhile supporters would merely confirm the effectiveness of the media-Democratic strategy and encourage similar attacks against whichever remaining prospective Republican candidates appear to have the best chances of defeating Obama. Mitt Romney? The media love to treat him as the Republican front-runner when, in reality, his failure to repudiate his Massachusetts health-care “reform” disaster probably dooms his candidacy. But watch someone like Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie start to poll well against Obama and the smear machine will be turned on with full force. It’s already going after Christie with recycled bogus accusations of expense-account padding. No doubt if Daniels starts to poll well his eccentric marital history will be twisted to make him seem strange.
Palin was an obscure libertarian governor with wide popularity in her home state before McCain picked her as his VP. Nobody cared about her except Alaskans and her national libertarian fans. As Lott points out, she was attacked because she is effective, not because of her supposed personal failings. (Did the media care about Obama’s personal failings?)
Don’t believe for a moment that any Republican candidate who is half as politically effective as Palin is won’t get the same treatment that she has received. There may be valid reasons to reject her as a presidential candidate, but the fact that she has been the target of unprecedented smear campaigns isn’t one of them.