Sarah Palin's speech at an Iowa Republican event Friday was supposed to clarify the "will-she-won't-she" speculation around a possible 2012 bid for president. Unfortunately, it didn't. Many political prognosticators read Palin's unwillingness to hobnob with Iowa activists as a sign that she's not serious about running as a traditional candidate would. But, of course, Sarah Palin is not a traditional figure, and her statement in a Fox News interview that she'd "give it a shot" if Americans thought she was "the one" has given heart to hopeful conservatives that 2012 is still on the table.

However she's leaning, a weekend straw poll at the Values Voter Summit made clear that she's far from the establishment conservative pick. In a ballot of five potential nominees, Indiana Representative Mike Pence ranked first, while Palin placed last, with only 7 percent of the social conservative vote.

  • In Iowa, She Didn't Act Like a Candidate  Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times says Palin did not use her time in Iowa as a truly serious candidate would: "If she really had made up her mind whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, she may have spent her afternoon here a bit differently. ... It is the season when candidates — and their events — are everywhere, but Ms. Palin spent little of her time with them. She did not appear at a rally, impromptu campaign stop or closed-door one-on-one meetings with party activists. The few Republicans who did get a moment of private time with her had to wait in a photo line at a small reception. When politicians accept speech invitations at party occasions, particularly outings like the annual Ronald Reagan Dinner, they often do a host of behind-the-scenes events." Palin went for a run instead.
  • Don't Rule It Out: Primary Voters Love Palin  Dennis Sanders at the Moderate Voice laments that even as polls show Palin would be unpopular, we can't "count out the Republican electorate. Most folks simply follow the polls that says the wider public don’t care for her. While that’s true, anyone running for President has to get through the primaries, and those voters tend to mirror Palin’s beliefs. I could see an energized base giving her a victory in Iowa and South Carolina and quite possibly other states."
  • Palin Didn't Appeal to Party Machinery  Ben Smith of Politico says her prospects have gotten murkier since she eschewed wooing the Iowa Republicans. "Palin made clear she is considering running for president but showed no sign that she plans to engage in the painstaking, humbling contest that will begin here in Iowa later this year. ... the tenor of her speech, with its attacks on the 'machine' and on the 'political playbook. … handed to us from on high from the political elites,' made it difficult to imagine her giving up her current, comfortable platform to jump through the party’s hoops."
  • She Can Swing Races, but Isn't the Front Runner   Conservative columnist Ross Douthat of the New York Times rebuts speculation that Palin's influence in the Delaware upset that made Christine O'Donnell the Republican nominee makes her the presumptive 2012 front-runner. "Trying to draw lessons for the long, hard primary slog to come from a single midterm race strikes me as the definition of a fool’s errand," he writes. The anger over the economy and Congress that's fueling GOP insurgents may die out before 2012, he argues: "It is extremely unlikely that the political landscape in the winter and spring of 2012 will resemble the political landscape in the autumn of 2010."
  • Impossible to Tell: Palin's Not a Traditional Candidate  Jennifer Rubin of Commentary scoffs at the endless speculation, pointing out that it's in everyone's interest not to answer the 2012 question but "to keep the suspense going." It's simply impossible to know if Palin is serious because she's unlike any other candidate. "If a traditional candidate is going to run, he’s going to do traditional things ... But Palin isn’t that sort of politician. It’s not clear she will, until the last possible moment (and maybe not even then), play the nitty-gritty insiders’ game. She, after all has 100 percent name identification and can command free media to an extent no other figure can. This doesn’t mean she can win with such an approach. But we’ve never seen a phenomenon like Palin."