America will have a woman president.

But it is not likely that the first one will be Sarah Palin.

Even Republicans who embrace Palin as a guilty political pleasure have a hard time seeing the self-described "maverick" who quit serving as governor of Alaska so that she could spend more time as a Fox News commentator as a commander-in-chief.

But Palin’s still good for a laugh.

Appearing at a town hall meeting in Saudi Arabia Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about the prospect of a Palin presidency.

"Does the prospect of Sarah Palin one day becoming president maybe terrify you?" a student asked Clinton, who knows a thing or two about presidential politics. "And if so, would you consider emigrating to Canada or possibly even Russia?" (The latter being a country Palin has — almost — seen from her house.)

When Clinton finished laughing, she said: "Well, the short answer is ‘no.’ I will not be emigrating. I will be visiting as often as I can."

Points to Clinton for thinking on her feet and using humor to diffuse a discussion about domestic politics in a foreign setting where she was attempting to bridge complex religious and cultural divides.

Luckily for Clinton, the whole Palin-as-president conversation provides plenty of comic relief — as few Americans are taking it seriously.

After a bumbling 2008 vice presidential campaign that invited "I can see Russia from my house" parody, a mere 38 percent of voters told exit pollsters they saw Palin as being qualified to be president.

Now that Palin’s gained more exposure, with her "I’m-not-a-quitter" exit from the governor’s job, her book tour and her recent Tea Partying, what has happened to that "Palin-is-qualified" number?

It has fallen to 26 percent, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Among Republicans, according to the ABC/Post poll, the percentage that said Palin was unqualified to serve as president has risen from around 25 percent at the close of the 2008 campaign to 52 percent today.

Independents are even more unsettled by Palin.

Fully two-thirds of these critical swing voters say Palin’s unqualified.Those are devastating numbers.

Indeed, Palin would have a hard time beating Dick Cheney for the Republican presidential nod in 2012.

The Republicans are focusing increasingly on taking the White House back. They think a weakened Barack Obama can be beat, and that aren’t going to put that prospect at risk by backing a feel-good candidacy.

The GOP isn’t going to nominate Palin, just as the American people aren’t going to put her in the White House.

Sarah Palin is not a serious presidential prospect — except, perhaps, in her own mind and in the darkest fantasies of Democratic strategists who see her as the one candidate that even a weakened President Obama could surely beat in 2012.

So what is Palin?

A punchline. And Hillary Clinton just hit it.