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Picking a GOP nominee in 2012: ‘More of a fool’s errand than it normally is’

How would Sarah Palin do against President Obama in 2012, Jeff Greenfield?

“I do not do this kind of thumb-sucking,” huffs CBS’s senior political correspondent. “I think it is a humongous waste of time. It’s what substitutes for talking seriously about politics.”

When it comes to hypotheticals, Greenfield is more comfortable looking in the rear-view mirror. That’s why his new book, “Then Everything Changed,” focuses on “what-if?” scenarios from historical American events.

When nudged, however, Greenfield does allow himself a Palin prediction – that the Fox News analyst won’t run in ‘12.

“It’s a hunch. Look at her life. Everybody likes to dump on her, but she’s crazy like a fox. She leveraged an unsuccessful run for vice president into a national profile. She makes tons of money. She speaks only to people who like her, basically.

“My sense is, she took a look at it [candidacy] and decided it was too hard a climb at too great a cost. It’s almost already too late.”

Some argue the point is moot, because Palin is self-destructing. Greenfield disagrees, attributing her plummeting stock to her failure to “ease the skepticism, even among many

conservatives, that she is a credible contender. The cliché here is ‘gravitas.’”

‘Gravitas’ is not an issue for Greenfield, 67. A former speechwriter for Robert Kennedy, he’s covered politics for CBS (twice), CNN and ABC. “Then Everything Changed” is his 12th book.

At this point, with no frontrunner in a large pack, handicapping the Republican ticket “is more of a fool’s errand than it normally is,” Greenfield says. There could be so many participants in the first primary debate — six weeks from today on May 2 — that they’ll have to tweet their responses, he adds.

Besides, Greenfield’s conserving his energy. “I’m not out looking at the campaign in the obsessive way I do when there’s a real campaign, like a year from now, unless a candidate begins to catch fire. It might be fun to watch Trump debate at the Reagan Library, as a spectacle.”

Back at the shop, Greenfield’s contract is up “in the next couple of months.” Is retirement a possibility? “I’ve been doing this a long time… I know I have the writing bug now, whether I’m schlepping through Iowa in 2012 or sitting on the beach.”

Meanwhile, Greenfield has been on the road so much to flog his book that he hasn’t said more than hello to new division boss David Rhodes, 37.

“It’s a little disconcerting that the president of CBS News is a year younger than my daughter,” he says.

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