Palin didn't run in 2012 because she didn't have the money personally or from the big establishment financial backers. Instead the GOP establishment in their "wisdom" got behind Romney, a candidate so weak that he spent most of the primaries trying to head off Rick Santorum for goodness sake.
That Romney was such a poor candidate was proven by his selection of Paul Ryan who ran the most invisible vice-presidential campaign I have ever seen. Ryan suffered the embarrassment (as did all Republicans who watched it) by being mercilessly clobbered by Joe Biden in their one sided debate.
Romney went on to throw away his opening debate performance, or rather Obama's mysteriously weak performance, by running a listless and forgettable campaign bolstered by Karl Rove's poll mirages.
It is quite likely that Palin would have lost if she had received the GOP's backing as a sitting president is very difficult to defeat. But she would have fought a dogged campaign with energized voters which would have done the GOP a great favor. This was proven by her efforts on behalf of the Tea Party and the numerous candidates she endorsed and stumped for who owe their elections to her.
In such a scenario the world would be an utterly different place for the Republican establishment this year. There is little doubt that Romney would be the 2016 candidate, probably unopposed, as it would be "his turn" and the establishment and their media enablers would say "OK the conservatives had their turn and lost so it is now time for the traditional centrist approach and etc."
But they didn't, and they now have Trump and could have had Cruz.
If they hadn't been such elitist blockheads not only could they have avoided the 2012 disaster for their clique. If they had encouraged and supported Palin in 2015/6 and she announced a run,Trump would most likely not have run as he had clearly indicated his support for her. Her (crucial) endorsement of him and his ongoing public thanks to her clearly show as much.
A Palin run would have been indebted to the establishment machine and the financial backers and would not have the total independence that Trump has. Further Palin would have brought the conservative element unconditionally and obviously would have negated the Hillary "woman's card" nonsensical but obvious appeal to a segment of women.
There is only one group responsible for Romney's 2012 loss and Trump's 2016 rise and that is the shortsighted, elitist, arrogant Republican establishment whose disdainful and undercutting treatment of Palin has brought them to this well deserved place of submission to Trump.