Republicans eager to knock Sarah Palin from her presumed perch atop the cluttered 2012 presidential primary field have found an unlikely wedge issue that includes an unlikely ally:
The first lady and flab.
In an odd turn of events, some conservatives have taken to defending Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative from the salvos of Palin, and suggesting that she has gone too far by seeming to mock the first lady in a recent broadcast of "Sarah Palin's Alaska."
In the reality show, the former governor and high school basketball player prepared s'mores (ingredients: marshmallows, Hershey bars, graham crackers) and said the treat was "in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert."
In fact, Obama has never suggested that sweets be banned from the dinner table, cafeteria or campground. She says that she tells her kids, Sasha and Malia, that "dessert is not a right" and that meals should be balanced with fruits and veggies.
In a recent interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham to promote her latest book, Palin again dismissed Obama's anti-obesity effort as "some politician or politician's wife priorities," which amount to what she has in the past called a "nanny state run amok."
To the White House's probable delight, Palin's likely competition in the coming Republican primary seized the opportunity to lend a hand.
Mike Huckabee, the Republican Party's resident obesity authority, who famously shed more than 100 pounds in part by cutting out processed sugar and white flour, quickly came to the defense of Obama and the healthy volunteer spirit her initiative promotes.
In an interview with New York radio personality Curtis Sliwa, who is himself no stranger to volunteering as the founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting organization, Huckabee said, "With all due respect to my colleague and friend Sarah Palin, I think she's misunderstood what Michelle Obama is trying to do."
He said that Obama was "stating the obvious: that we do have an obesity crisis in this country." He added: "The first lady's campaign is on target. It's not saying that you can't or should never eat a dessert."
The dessert debate has offered the conservative establishment, wary of the tea party flag-bearer's chances in a general election, an opportunity to create some daylight between Palin and more moderate Republicans.
The opinion page of the Wall Street Journal on Monday quoted Palin's own past health-centric comments and said, "Mrs. Obama's campaign is grounded in similar sentiments." It then offered this rare shot at Palin. "Mrs. Palin would be more effective if she made some distinctions among the Obama policies that really are worth opposing."