Sarah Palin may still be a presidential tease.
But she is deadly serious about how and where she does her teasing. Just ask any Iowan.
The former governor of Alaska says she might run for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination—in a process all but certain to begin with Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
And Palin says she thinks she would win.
But Palin isn’t running. Not really. Not yet.
She’s just spending a lot of time in, um, Iowa.
To be fair, she is lauching a national tour for her new just-in-time-for-Christmas tome—America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag (Harpers)—and she has to start somewhere. So why not Des Moines? And, um, Spirit Lake?
The 2008 Republican nominee for vice president spent three hours hawking books to Hawkeyes at a Des Moines Borders store last week.
She’ll be back in Iowa for this week for that stop at the Walmart Superstore out on Highway 9/71 in Spirit Lake.
Not many authors make it all the way to Spirit Lake, population 4,261.
But a presidential candidate, well, yes, presidential candidates do find their way to Spirit Lake, which happens to be in the rich Republican heartland that sends ultra-conservative Republican Congressman Steve King to Washington.
But ask if this has anything to do with the fact that Iowa is the first-caucus state and you don’t get much.
All Palin gave reporters in Des Moines was a quick: "Oh my goodness!"
So she is not running. Not really. Not yet.
But she is beating the GOP’s other presidential teases—at least at the cash registers. According to the manager of the Des Moines Borders store, Palin far outdrew former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 GOP caucuses in the state, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who pioneered the "I-might-run-for-president-so-you-better-up-my-lecture-fee" schtick that some think Palin had adopted.
But book-selling is one thing—and Palin’s book is better than Newt’s, even if it is not quite as good as Huckabee’s new kid’s book.
What about the polls?
The serious polling of Iowa has yet to get going.
But we’ve got some data.
For instance, the usually quite reliable Iowa Poll by the Des Moines Register has never put Palin in first place among Iowa Republicans.
But they like her.
An older Iowa Poll, which compared favorables and unfavorables, found that 68 percent of Iowa Republicans viewed Palin avorably, while 24 percent had an unfavorable take on the hockey mom/millionaire media maven.
That, argued the Register, made her "a credible candidate for the 2012 caucuses should she decide to run for president."
But Iowa Republicans still prefer Huckabee. His ratings in the same poll were 70 percent favorable to just 12 percent unfavorable.
An Iowa Republican website straw poll, conducted over the summer, had Huckabee besting Palin by a 2-1 margin.
Even Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ran better than Palin.
"Oh my goodness!"