Do we really need to talk about Sarah Palin today? Regrettably, yes.

I typically resist tracking the exploits of the incoherent former half-term governor and inveterate attention junkie. I'm bored by the endless will-she-or-won't-she media speculation, which can best be described as Palin porn. Her whole game is to flash a little leg (politically speaking) and feed her celebrity, and the cable networks in particular fall for it every time.

Why so much of the media behaves in this Pavlovian fashion is beyond me. In the latest Gallup poll, only 15 percent of Republican voters cite Palin as their first choice for the GOP presidential nomination. Think about that for a moment: We've been subjected to nearly three years of relentless Palin porn - yet 85 percent of Republican voters would prefer that somebody else helm the ticket. That statistic dovetails with the February national poll which reported that only 45 percent of conservative Republicans saw her as qualified for the presidency. And no wonder. She's as deep as a brain-dead summer beach novel. At best, she would be a niche candidate with a low ceiling of national support.

But the buzz this week has been unusually loud. So much excitement - she's embarking on a bus tour, with the first words of the Constitution emblazoned on the bus! She's meeting on Sunday with motorcycle riders, then heading for New England! She's buying a house in the electorally important state of Arizona! She's staffing up! She's the star of a reportedly fawning documentary that will be shown next month in Iowa, home of the caucuses! She told Fox News the other day that she has "fire in the belly!" She declared, "I'm so adamantly supportive of the good traditional things about America!"

To which all the Palin porn consumers say, "OMG, she's running for president!" To me, it sounds like the usual celebrity trickery, roughly on a par with the buzz about the new Paris Hilton reality show that debuts on Wednesday, but, yes, there is a case to be made that attention must be paid. Her decision to double down on her peekaboo game does affect the dynamics of the Republican race.

A heightened Palin presence sucks up a lot of media oxygen, and undercuts some of the candidates who are desperately seeking traction. Every minute devoted to Palin is a minute less for Rick Santorum (who covets her constituency) and Tim Pawlenty (who badly needs to connect with Palin conservatives in Iowa), not to mention Jon Huntsman (who badly needs to hike his lowly name ID), Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson. If she's going to be hanging around indefinitely, teasing one and all with the prospect of an autumn entry (or not), she will freeze her sizable share of the Republican base. Her followers will be loathe to commit to any of her rivals (including Palin's more articulate twin, Michele Bachmann) until they know her intentions.

In all likelihood this morning, the only smiling candidate is ostensible front runner Mitt Romney. He may be light as a feather in terms of his convictions, having retooled them so many times since 2007, but the Republican establishment would probably rush to embrace him as the designated grownup if it appeared that Palin was truly taking the plunge. The party establishment well recognizes that, at least when compared to Palin, Mitt Romney is a Roman statesman in the mold of Marcus Tullius Cicero.

The bottom line on Palin is the same as always. She may be strong within her core constituency (which shares her gut grievances), but, as most Republicans know, she alienates the swing-voting independents who typically decide presidential elections (which is why most Democrats would be ecstatic if she actually ran). Key conservative pundits such as Charles Krauthammer have already acknowledged that she would be a disastrous nominee - somewhat akin to Barry Goldwater in 1964 - and even one of her patrons, Fox News chief Roger Ailes, has reportedly soured on her. As a source close to Ailes told New York magazine last week, "He thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she's stupid." (The Ailes camp tried to mop up that mess the other day by issuing a fair-and-balanced comment. A top Fox executive told The New York Times, "Roger Ailes admires and respects Sarah Palin. He thinks she's smart.") Worse yet is the verdict from Frank Bailey, a former longtime top Palin aide (and self-described "staunch Fox News conservative") who writes in his new book: "I am convinced that her priorities and personality are not only ill-suited to head a political party or occupy national office, but would lead to a disaster of, well, biblical proportions."

In the end, as always, it seems unlikely that she'll run. A candidacy is too much work. Debates require too much homework. It's way easier to mouth empty sound bites from her Fox-built studio, or to reduce weighty issues to a Tweet. She can dabble with the Republican dynamics, mess with the media, and ultimately take responsibility for nothing. It's a great deal for her, a money maker. Porn is titillation and there's always a market. Entrepreneurial hustling is a time-honored national trait, and Palin does it so well. As she told Fox News, "I'm so adamantly supportive of the good traditional things about America!"

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I'm off the grid on Memorial Day, back here on Tuesday. Let's give a shout out to the troops, one of the good traditional things about America. Have a great holiday. See you on the flip side.