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Palin Bus Tour Takes Extended Pit Stop

Palin Bus Tour Takes Extended Pit Stop

By Scott Conroy - June 22, 2011


Less than a month after she appeared poised to shake up the Republican presidential campaign, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has once again receded from the 2012 limelight.

When Palin launched her "One Nation" bus tour on Memorial Day amid a swirl of media attention and excitement from her fervent fan base, many political observers who had once dismissed her were reminded of the jolt that her candidacy could provide to what has thus far been a relatively sleepy GOP nominating fight.

As Palin toured historical sites along the East Coast, she was clearly reveling in the tangible excitement she'd ginned up: She even eagerly answered questions -- from the denizens of the "lamestream" media -- ranging from matters of political process to an array of issues facing the nation.

In an apparent repudiation to those who dismissed her trip as a mere publicity stunt, Palin's openness with reporters about her intentions to visit Iowa and South Carolina -- in addition to her highly scrutinized stop in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire -- lent credence to her repeated assertions that she was indeed seriously considering a White House bid.

Though Palin and her staff never announced a timeline for the remaining legs of her trip, aides had drafted preliminary itineraries that would have taken her through the Midwest and Southeast at some point this month. But those travel blueprints are now in limbo, RCP has learned, as Palin and her family have reverted to the friendly confines of summertime Alaska, where the skies are currently alight for over 19 hours a day and the Bristol Bay salmon fishing season is nearing its peak.

As Palin enjoys her sojourn to the 49th state, she has not reconnected with key early-state figures like Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and she may have jeopardized whatever political momentum she gained from her recent reemergence in the 2012 discussion. Her political action committee's website still greets visitors with a stale banner, announcing the nationwide bus tour beginning "[t]his Sunday, May 29th."

More than a few of Palin's core supporters have grown impatient and confused about her strategy, venting their frustration on Internet fan sites.

The former governor herself has consented to only one interview since her East Coast jaunt ended early this month, and her lack of recent public activity has generated a host of rumors about what her next step might be. Last week, the American Spectator, citing a single and unnamed Republican source, claimed that her presidential decision was imminent. Palin shot this speculation down immediately, but she didn't counter it with anything definitive.

And earlier this week, some of her staunchest supporters grew concerned about gossip suggesting that she had reached out to Texas Gov. Rick Perry about lending her support to his potential presidential run. But two Perry aides told RCP that they were not aware of any recent contact between Palin and the Texas governor.

Palin's extended hiatus could mean that in spite of her readily apparent "fire in the belly," her family has persuaded her not to further pursue the presidency. Alternatively, it could indicate just the opposite -- that she is plotting her next move and wants to ensure that it is well thought-out -- and that she retains the element of surprise. Indeed, the problem with assessing how Palin's movements figure into her 2012 calculus is that she remains one of the most unpredictable political figures in America -- even to her most trusted aides.

There may be a logical hook for Palin to reassert herself onto the presidential stage: A documentary extolling her record in Alaska, "The Undefeated," is set to premiere in Iowa and other early voting states before its July 15 nationwide release.

And in an indication that Palin's team may be on the verge of more actively associating herself with the film, the pro-Palin website Conservatives4Palin.com reported that SarahPAC Treasurer Tim Crawford recently mailed out a solicitation to Palin supporters that offered an early-release DVD of the film in return for a donation of $100 or more to SarahPAC.

"It is absolutely critical that as many Americans as possible see this film -- and soon," Crawford wrote in the letter. "And it's time for patriots like you and me to stop letting the Palin haters and the national news media distort Sarah's record, especially now as America looks ahead to new leadership in 2012."

During the initial stage of her bus tour three weeks ago, Palin said that it would still be weeks before she would make her presidential decision, and her husband, Todd, concurred that the final verdict was "a long ways away."

The realities inherent in conducting the necessary legwork to mount a viable presidential campaign, even for a candidate as unconventional as Palin, may compel her to move closer to a decision sooner than she might have liked. But for the time being, she appears to be in no rush to either enter the 2012 fray -- or to distance herself from it.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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