Are Republicans Beginning to Waver in Their Deference Toward Sarah Palin?

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The deference among the possible Republican presidential hopefuls is not entirely surprising -- no candidate has officially entered the race, so there's no real reason to start a fight. But it is also a reflection of Palin's growing following among the GOP grassroots and the Tea Party, as well as the threat her media juggernaut could pose, whether or not she becomes the party's nominee.

Palin, of course, is not the only beneficiary of the unofficial detente among most members of the not-yet-declared 2012 field. In a joint appearance earlier this spring, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a likely presidential candidate, called Mitt Romney a "wise," "smart," and "effective" leader.

"He has served our state and nation really well," Pawlenty said at a speech in Minneapolis in April.

For his part, Romney campaigned this year with South Dakota Sen. John Thune, whose name has also been tossed into the presidential rumor mill. And Romney, Pawlenty and Huckabee all were there for Gingrich's election-night party in November.

All the friendly appearances and niceties will no doubt seem downright tame six months or a year from now, when many of these Republicans are likely to be in the midst of a scrappy fight for the GOP nomination. And although Republicans may be walking on egg shells around Palin, in particular, Scarborough's op-ed points to deep divisions within the party about the wisdom of choosing her as the nominee.

More of those doubts are starting to surface.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a rising GOP star who some have mentioned as a long-shot 2012 contender, alluded to his own concerns, albeit subtly, during an appearance on NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" last week.

"Do you think Sarah Palin could do it?" Fallon asked Christie.

"Well, you know, who knows, Jimmy?" he replied. "It's an amazing world."

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