It had become obvious that Palin was not going to be a candidate. The reality is that Palin didn't stand a chance, so badly has she squandered her political capital within the Republican party over the past year with cheap stunts, such as an on-again, off-again grandiose national bus tour. Her career in national politics as a candidate is over.
The most straight-forward implication of Palin's decision – along with the announcement by New Jersey governor Chris Christie that he would not be running – is that the Republican field is set. There is now no prince across the water. That means Republican voters will either have to come to terms with Mitt Romney or the alternative, most likely Rick Perry.
So it comes down to the goober and the Gooper. Neither is a really attractive choice for the Republican party. Neither is truly going to catch fire in the general election.
Now Republicans know the trouble Democrats had in 2004. One might almost think that there's a conspiracy to trade mediocrities in order to keep the population quieted.
But I digress...
Effectively, Palin's decision hands the nomination to Obama more forcefully. Even if she had run and miraculously managed to pull in enough votes to win, her charisma might have been enough to pull off an upset. I doubt it, seriously, but then stranger things have happened. Now that she's out of the race, a more boring candidate is sure to win the nomination, and basically all Obama has to do is talk about solutions to the issues and he'll win walking away.
One advantage an incumbent President has: he doesn't have to campaign from anyplace but the Oval Office in order to win re-election. In fact, the best re-elections have seen the President looking very Presidential and the worst mistakes ex-Presidents have made have been while campaigning (think Bush the Elder at a supermarket scanner, or glancing at his watch during a debate against the Big Dog.)
One can say many things about President Obama but he has certainly looked Presidential, especially since Osama bin Laden was killed: confident, mature, articulate. He may have been lost in the early days of his administration. I chalk that up to letting others row the boat for him while he stood on the prow. Once he took charge of his Presidency and his agenda-- perhaps the best challenge he's faced has been the loss of the House-- he's seemed more statesmenlike.
I think this is why the rhetoric against him has amped up and also why the Republicans are scrambling to be dilatory and obstacles. They're running scared, and have much to be answerable for, from the Birther movement to the failures of the Teabaggers to foment the kind of political uprising they had hoped for.
So they should run scared. Obama may not have hit a might tee shot, but his approach to the fairway has put him within feet of the flag.