Politico reports on a new statement by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who warns Sarah Palin not to challenge her for the GOP nomination when Murkowski runs for reelection in 2010. Assuming Palin could win (not a sure thing, but probably more likely than not given Murkowski's ethical issues) would that help Palin win the GOP presidential nomination in 2012? I doubt it.
First of all, the Senate primary would be distracting. While it would keep Palin in the public eye, she'd be in the public eye attacking a fellow Republican -- and one who hasn't fallen to the Dick Cheney-like levels of unpopularity that her father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, reached before he was defeated in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary by ... Sarah Palin. And if Palin won a race against the junior Murkowski, some Republicans would surely see her as selfish, destroying the little seniority Alaska has in the Senate and ending the career of an able Republican solely for personal gain -- not helpful when you're trying to become the nation's top Republican.
What's more, I don't quite get what being a senator for two years would do for Palin. Sure, she could learn a bit about Washington and meet some world leaders, but in a Democratic Congress with a Democratic president, she wouldn't actually accomplish much she could run on in a Republican presidential primary. In Alaska, on the other hand, she has a healthy budget and a majority-Republican legislature and could, if she wanted, do all kinds of things that would make Republican primary voters all tingly, from school vouchers to subsidizing faith-based initiatives.
Most importantly, I doubt that, whatever Palin does, she'll be able to convince people she's no longer wildly uninformed about national issues. Most voters, even primary voters, won't be paying attention until the next election season is well under way, and so the views of her they held during the 2008 election will remain unchanged. Once voters do see Palin back on the trail, she'll be judged on how coherently she can actually talk about the issues, not what office she happens to hold.