Sarah Palin, who was once, no joke, the vice-presidential candidate for a major U.S. political party (the elephant one), raised $866,000 for her political action committee last quarter. Uh-oh: Does Sarah Palin have a shot at the presidential nomination?

So, it's not really a secret that Sarah Palin would like to be president, of the actual United States, and as such is angling herself to be the Republican nominee for the 2012 elections, which will be the last presidential elections before the space Mayans explode us. It's just that she's been mostly a sort-of funny sideshow, not well-admired by two-thirds of Americans and unable to communicate in any way besides barely-articulate Tweets and Facebook posts, and seemingly incapable of running, like, a real-life grown-up political operation.

Until now! Palin's PAC, called SarahPAC, seems to have raised more money than any other likely Republican candidate's group except for Mitt Romney's. Not only that, She donated 80 grand to candidates and hired a bunch of policy advisors, and a scheduler:

The report, filed with the Federal Election Commission, shows that Palin's political action committee raised more money in the second quarter of this year – $866,000 – than it had in any previous three-month stretch since Palin formed the group in January 2009.

The committee, Sarah PAC, also spent nearly twice as much – $742,000 – as it had in any previous quarter, the lion's share of which went to the type of list-building and fundraising (including its first major direct-mail campaign) that typically undergird top-tier political committees. It also reported its biggest-ever round of donations to candidates – $87,50 – and its highest outlays for travel costs, including $17,000 on private jet fare to crisscross the country for high-profile political speaking gigs, and speechwriting. It also showed continued payments for that speechwriting as well as foreign and domestic policy consulting, and its first ever payments to a scheduler.

In short, for the first time since the 2008 campaign when she was the vice-presidential running mate to GOP presidential candidate John McCain, Palin is supported by a political operation befitting someone considering a presidential run.

So, Palin is actually getting her shit together. The question is: Does it change anything? Well, she's not going to be any more well-liked just because she's raised money, and Republicans likely aren't dumb enough to nominate a woman that most Americans—Americans who voted for George W. Bush—don't think is qualified to be president, strong apparatus or not.

What it might change is Palin's relative power inside the GOP—i.e., how seriously people are willing to take her, and her endorsement. And that just pushes the party even further toward the "crazy as hell" wing of American political life, which, as hilarious as it is to blog about, and electorally beneficial to the Democratic party, is ultimately a scary, sucky thing, if only for the platform it provides to lunatics, idiots and racists. Luckily, the space Mayans are coming soon.

[Politico; pic via AP]