With Sarah Palin having bid adieu to the Governor's Office in the Land of the Midnight Sun, speculation runs rampant about the erstwhile beauty queen's future. In addition to the standard cadre of rancorous reporters and polemic pundits, political pachyderms from the Republican National Committee (RNC) on down have been unable to resist the almost siren-like allure that the moose-hunting matriarch of the Palin clan commands. From book contracts and speaking tours to a television talk show, the centerfold of Playboy and a possible run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the plethora of possibilities presented Palin fascinate throngs across the political spectrum. The problem for Republicans, though, is saucy Sarah has become a distraction from the real and pressing work at hand - preparing for the 2010 midterm election. Speculating about who will be a major party's presidential nominee is natural enough in political and media circles - particularly for a party wandering in the political wilderness, looking for a leader to challenge a president whose personal popularity remains enviably high. The problem, however, is focusing on the '12 presidential race overlooks the importance of the '10 midterm election. Next year's election is critical for the Grand Old Party for a number of reasons. Among them are......... - 0 and 2 in the last two election cycles, the Republicans desperately need a win. Not only have the Republicans lost the last two cycles, the Democrats have won in convincing fashion. The fact is neither '06 nor '08 were even close. This in turn has lent credibility to questions over the Party's national viability. Pundits ponderously debate whether or not it has become intellectually bankrupt and teeters on the verge of being relegated to a declining regional force. Another loss would only add fuel to the fire and greatly impede it's ability to attract new voters, recruit credible candidates and raise campaign and party contributions. While many GOP diehards take solace in the historical trend of the party controlling the White House loosing seats in Congress during midterms, they would be well-advised to remain cognizant of the 2007 meeting of lowly Appalachian State verses the mythical might of Michigan. Overlooking the Division I Mountaineers for more formidable foes later in the season, the Top 25 Wolverines were dealt a humiliating upset that still leaves the maize and blue clad faithful shaking their heads in disbelief. The lesson - don't take anything for granted; focus on the game - or election - at hand, not the one farther down the schedule. - On the state level, the legislators and governors elected next year will draw the district lines for not only the '12 election cycle, but the next decade. Political ground warfare is fought in the trenches of legislative and congressional districts. Having the ability to draw the lines of those districts to favor your party is, as Mastercard likes to say, priceless. This power literally allows a party to lay the foundation for future electoral success. Accordingly, one of the concrete steps both the RNC and Mrs. Palin can take to increase the Party's prospects for success in '12 is to assiduously support Republican candidates on the state level next year. Successfully planted seeds in '10 will be the roots that bear electoral fruits for years to come. - The results of next year's election will greatly influence the makeup of the '12 Republican presidential field. If Obama repeats George W. Bush's freshman midterm success of not only defending, but adding seats in Congress next year, the resulting political momentum may well deter candidates who might have otherwise run if they had the base of a Republican victory from which to launch their quest for the White House. In '08, Obama raised unprecedented amounts of money for both the primary and general election campaigns. After four years in the White House, his constituencies will see their futures as being inextricably vested in returning him to the Oval Office. Accordingly, they will seek to provide him with a more than ample war chest to easily repel his eventual Republican challenger. If the Democrats succeed in putting the Republicans down 0 for 3 next year, the momentum propelling Obama into '12 will create a sense of inevitability to the defense of his incumbency. The end result will be a bandwagon effect that magnetically attracts both voters and campaign contributions. Should the Republicans face this daunting set of circumstances in '12, many potential contenders for the Party's nomination may well choose to forgo being the sacrificial lamb and bide their time till '16. Conversely, should '10 turnout to be a ballot box bloodbath for Democrats, some Republicans who might otherwise have remained in the stands will jump into the center ring. Accordingly, to attempt to seriously handicap the horse race for the Party's nomination before anyone has even ponied up to the starting gate is the height of folly. Not only that, it is a distraction Republicans can ill-afford at this point. Nonetheless, for those fearless political gamblers out there, the inside track clearly belongs to..... Focus, faithful readers. Focus, discipline and good ole fashioned political elbow grease - integral elements to electoral success. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and we see if Republicans have 20/20 political vision or are in critical need of corrective lenses to address a crippling case of hyperopia.