The reason elite opinion makers are set on destroying [Sarah Palin] is fear. They sense that like Ronald Reagan, and unlike, say, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, she really, genuinely doesn't care what they think, and for that reason is willing and able to go over their heads and make a strong, direct appeal to voters.
Bell tangentially alludes to the upcoming struggle in the Republican Party. In my view, it isn't between moderates and conservatives, or south vs. west, or affluent vs. no-so-affluent. It's between those with an elitist/inside-the-beltway outlook and the down-to-earth types like Sarah Palin.
Inside the beltway elitism is always going to be destructive to conservatives because DC is the home of government. It inculcates a mindset that's overly concerned with the media, amenable to the tropes that end up benefiting liberals (like "bipartisanship") and out-of-touch with regular people.
Indeed, failure to think outside the beltway box was part of John McCain's problem -- his internalizing of Beltway values, for example, was why it made sense to him to try to return to Washington and negotiate the bailout. That was "bipartisan" and "responsible." The problem? It wasn't good politics in the end, and Barack Obama knew it. He was neither "bipartisan" (ever) or "responsible" -- and he's the president-elect now.
Republicans will never be able to win and win big with a candidate who cares what the beltway elites think. Ronald Reagan didn't care, Sarah Palin doesn't care -- and in his finest moments (for example, in executing the war on terror and protecting America) President Bush hasn't cared. That's a lesson for those who believe that it's possible to find a principled conservative who's a good communicator and simultaneously adored by the Beltway establishment. It will never happen.