Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is "certainly" a leader in the Republican Party, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday.

Cantor said Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee who's occasionally crossed establishment figures in the party by wading into GOP primaries this cycle, is a "very viable leader."

"Sarah Palin is certainly a leader in our party," the second-ranking House Republican said Monday on Sirius/XM radio. "She is someone who inspires millions of Americans because of her accomplishments, because of the fact that she represents to many, many Americans that not only can you have it all here in this country, you can do it all."

Palin's been a polarizing figure even within the Republican Party at times, though. Her crop of conservative primary challengers have managed to beat highly recruited candidates in GOP primaries, most recently Christine O'Donnell's defeat of centrist Rep. Mike Castle last week in Delaware.

Those candidates are seen as potentially less loyal to party leaders in the House and Senate, should they make their way to Washington with victories in this fall's elections.

Democrats have relished the opportunity at times to link the GOP's official leadership with Palin and her favored candidates, many of them with deep ties to the Tea Party movement.

Republicans, too, seem unsure about what role Palin, a potential 2012 candidate for president who visited Iowa this past weekend, has in the party.

A plurality of self-identified Republicans — 47 percent — said they believed Palin lacked the ability to be an effective president. Forty percent of GOP members said in a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll that she could be an effective president.

Palin was also the fifth-place pick for social conservatives assembled in D.C. over the weekend for the Values Voter Summit. Seven percent of the voters named her as their top presidential choice, though she was the second-place choice for a vice presidential candidate for Republicans in 2012, finishing at 15 percent.

Cantor said he didn't want to name who he thought the best GOP candidates were, but said Palin had the chops to be a player in the Republican Party.

"Sarah Palin is someone who is a very viable leader, and she plays a big role in our party, and I think she represents something that can contribute to Republican success, that is correct," he said.