Sarah Palin hasn’t jumped into the race for the White House (yet), but she believes the prize is there for the taking. In a conversation with Peter J. Boyer, Palin warns Boehner not to raise the debt ceiling, proclaims that Obama is beatable—and says the 2012 field is far from settled.

“I believe that I can win a national election,” Sarah Palin declared one recent evening, sitting in the private dining room of a hotel in rural Iowa. The occasion for her visit to quintessential small-town America was a gathering of the faithful that would have instantaneously erupted into a fervent campaign rally had she but given the word. Instead, it had been another day on the non–campaign trail, this one capped by a sweet victory: she had just attended the premiere of a glowingly positive documentary about her titled The Undefeated.

“The people of America are desperate for positive change, and deserving of positive change, to get us off of this wrong track,” she told me during a conversation that lasted late into the night and, inevitably, kept returning to the subject that has titillated the media and spooked Republican presidential contenders for months: her political intentions. “I’m not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around,” she said. “But I do believe that I can win.”

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By the end of his first term, President Obama will have added as much debt as all the prior 43 presidents combined