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Sarah Palin makes a splash at the Iowa State Fair

August 12, 2011|By Seema Mehta
  • Sarah Palin is mobbed by reporters and supporters at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
Sarah Palin is mobbed by reporters and supporters at the Iowa State Fair… (Seema Mehta / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Des Moines, Iowa — Sarah Palin crashed into the Iowa State Fair on Friday, eclipsing the GOP presidential candidates who were trying to draw supporters to the Ames Straw Poll the following day.

The timing of Palin's visit raised eyebrows among political observers, who have been playing a will-she-or-won't-she-run game for months. It's not the first time the former Alaska governor has stolen the spotlight in politically important moments – earlier this summer she made an appearance in New Hampshire on the same day Mitt Romney officially declared his candidacy there.

Palin said the timing of her visit was coincidental, that she had been invited to the fair for a couple years and was able to incorporate it into her "One Nation" bus tour that she has been sporadically conducting this summer. But she noted that it was important for candidates to spend time in the early-voting states.

Photos: Scenes From Iowa - Republicans at the State Fair

"I am here as an invited guest of people who have asked me to come [to the fair] the last couple years, part of the 'One Nation Tour,' getting to highlight an all-Americana historical venue we have here at the state fair, but at the same time getting to learn a lot more about what's important to Iowa and that's helpful too," she said, after touring the cattle barn.

Palin was mobbed by supporters and the media as soon as she entered the fair, drawing far more attention than Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum did when they spoke at the Des Moines Register soapbox, flipped pork chops at a food stand and wandered the grand concourse shaking hands with fair-goers.

The three men are among the six candidates officially competing at the Straw Poll, an early test of organizational strength.

Palin said she did not plan on attending the Straw Poll.

"I don't want  to step on anybody's toes, so we won't be in the state tomorrow," Palin said, smiling. "We'll already be on the bus heading out."

Palin laughed and didn't answer when asked if supporters should write in her name at the contest at Iowa State University. Palin declined to say who her supporters should cast ballots for in her place, and said it is too early for her to decide who to support if she doesn't run.

"I'm a believer in ABO – Anybody But Obama," she said. "There's still a long time in this process to hear everybody's ideas, to more fully understand what their experience is before I would jump out at this early date and say I would support any of them over anybody else."

Palin reiterated that she would make a decision in September, a deadline she said is both necessary for logistical purposes and to be fair to her supporters who are holding off joining other candidates' efforts while she makes up her mind.

Palin pledged to run a different kind of campaign if she jumps in.

"Each campaign that I've ever run in these 20 years of elected office has been kind of unconventional, right, Todd?" Palin said, turning to her husband. "I've always been outspent 2:1, 5:1, 10:1. I never won any polls heading into election night but usually won the election."

"It would be unconventional and very grass-roots, very grass-roots," she said. "I wouldn't be out there looking for hires out of that political bubble that seem to result in the same ideas, same old talking points, the things that Americans get so sick and tired of hearing and kind of suffering through. We want new! We want new energy, we want conviction and passion and candidness, even if through that candidates make mistakes."

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