Sarah Palin is once again confounding the press and the political world this week with her "One Nation" bus tour. The former governor has refused to release an itinerary, leaving reporters scrambling to keep up. Meanwhile, fellow pols are wondering whether Palin's unusual trip (which has included stops at Gettysburg, the Liberty Bell, and a New York pizza joint for a pie with Donald Trump) means she really will run for president — and worrying that she is stealing their media thunder. While Palin insists the bus tour's purpose is to call attention to historic sites, commentators are skeptical. Here, five alternate theories:
1. She's trying to stay relevant
The tour is meant to get Palin back in the spotlight, and rebuild her political standing. "This is a very well-orchestrated media hype that has created buzz well beyond the standard bus tour," says Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, as quoted by Reuters. "It's a huge branding exercise for Palin and her business model." She just wants to keep "the Palin name out there." Her dinner with The Donald on Tuesday served this agenda perfectly.
2. She's forcing the media to portray her as a patriot
"Palin revels in end-running — or ignoring altogether — the mainstream media," says Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post. Palin is treating reporters "like paparazzi," says Brian Montopoli at CBS News. And by "playing hard to get," she has actually "made herself even more in demand," says Jon Ward at The Huffington Post. This way, she gets to attract coverage and still control the message, says Peter Grier in The Christian Science Monitor. And the images that have been coming out of the trip so far — Palin reading the Constitution, Palin at the Liberty Bell — may be her ultimate goal, positioning her as "the maybe-candidate most conversant with the nation's heritage."
3. She's raising money
"Besides name recognition and buzz, money is the key way Palin can exercise her influence," says Ward at The Huffington Post. Palin has used the website of her political action committee to promote this trip, rather than her Facebook or Twitter accounts — and she began asking for donations on the site the day she launched her tour. Even if she doesn't run herself, building up a war chest "will help her remain a power player" in GOP politics, and let her reward her allies and boost up-and-comers she favors.
4. She's feeling out a presidential bid
Palin's "road trip was designed as a test run to find out whether she can execute a decidedly unconventional campaign game plan," says Scott Conroy at RealClearPolitics. Palin's biggest concern about a run for the White House "was whether it would be logistically feasible" for her and her family to be on the road so much. She'll soon have her answer.
5. She's as confused as the rest of us
It would be nice "if Palin at least let people know whether she was leading them into the desert, or off of a cliff," says Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. But so far, "there's really no evidence at all that she has a plan," says Ben Smith at Politico. And there's no reason why Palin's every move and statement should "get covered and parsed like the Talmud." These are simply "the offhand remarks of someone doing this on the fly."