Is Sarah Palin in or out?
The former Alaska governor still acts like a potential presidential candidate. Her Labor Day weekend speeches in Iowa and New Hampshire showed that Palin remains more interesting to listen to than any other candidate, and she maintains her unrivaled resonance with the Tea Party movement. In Iowa she blasted "corporate-crony capitalism" by contrasting Washington's thriving suburbs with other, struggling parts of the country, and she touted her Alaska record of taking on Big Oil and other special interests--showcasing the maverick appeal that enticed John McCain to tap her as his running mate three years ago. Her support base--not wide but very deep in loyalty and enthusiasm--loves her pox-on-both-parties, anti-Establishment message, and she has shown herself to be willing to take on her friend Rick Perry for his ties to Big Business. And, as always, the media can't get enough of her.
What could hold her back?
A year ago Palin was the most powerful person in the GOP, but her standing has fallen everywhere. Large segments of American voters--even many Republicans--now view her unfavorably and consider her unqualified to be Commander in Chief. And a late-starting candidacy requires unadulterated focus, an experienced staff and a precise plan--none of which have been part of Palin's playbook.
When does she have to decide?
Palin publicly set the end of September as her target date. That timetable matches up with the initial wave of filing deadlines for next year's primaries. The crowds' cries of "Run, Sarah, run!" may be everlasting, but the opportunity to do so is not--at least for 2012.