Almost as soon as Sarah Palin burst onto the national political scene in 2008, pundits began wondering whether she would one day make a bid for president. Thanks to her enduring popularity with a particular brand of conservative, such speculation has not subsided. Meanwhile, Palin has been purposefully vague about her 2012 ambitions, pursuing a burgeoning media career and keeping journalists in a "perpetual will-she-or-won't-she frenzy," in the words of TIME's Mark Halperin. Here's a timeline of how the debate over Palin's intentions has fluctuated since she resigned as governor of Alaska:
August 20, 2011
Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush's two successful presidential campaigns, says on Fox News that he believes Palin will announce her candidacy by Labor Day. Citing her recent campaign-style swing through Iowa, a campaign-style video, and an upcoming keynote speech at a Sept. 3 Tea Party event in the Hawkeye State, Rove declares that "this is her last chance. She either gets in or out [after the Iowa visit]. I think she gets in." Rove is right, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. If that campaign video doesn't prove she's serious about running, I don't know what does.
August 10, 2011
Team Palin announces that the governor will visit the Iowa State Fair — during the same weekend as the much-hyped Ames Straw Poll, an early indicator of presidential candidates' strength in Iowa. Palin will "only stoke speculation about her future with the trip, her second to Iowa this summer," says Michael O'Brien at The Hill.
July 10, 2011
In a Newsweek cover story, Palin insists that she's still mulling a run. "I'm not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around... But I do believe that I can win." She's right, says John Sexton at VerumSerum. And if she is running, this is a terrific rollout. "No leaks. No definite hints either way. She's just stringing everyone along, making us wonder. If this is part of a campaign strategy, I'm already impressed."
May 26, 2011
Palin's camp announces that she will set off on a national bus tour, starting from the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally on May 29 in Washington, D.C. Palin's "One Nation" tour will wind through "historical sites that were key to the formation, survival, and growth of the United States of America,” says her political action committee website. The tour is being "cast as a way to 'energize Americans,'" says Jena McGregor in The Washington Post, "but it sounds suspiciously like a rebuild-my-image tour in advance of a presidential campaign to me. Whether it is or not, Palin isn’t saying."
May 25, 2011
RealClearPolitics reports that a two-hour-long film about Palin will debut in Iowa in June, before being released in other early GOP primary states and, eventually, nationwide. The $1 million documentary was financed and made in secret by conservative filmmaker Stephen Bannon. The film, and the decison to hold its premiere in Iowa, suggest "a concerted effort" by Palin "to reinject herself into the mix, as well as an attempt to refurbish her sinking political reputation," says James Oliphant in the Los Angeles Times.
May 21, 2011
The Arizona Republic reports that Palin might have just purchased a house in Scottsdale, Ariz., which might serve as the location of a possible campaign headquarters. The secluded, 8,000-square-foot, six-bedroom home, complete with a guard gate and six-car garage, was purchased for $1.7 million by Safari Investments, a firm established to conceal the buyer's identity. The Republic asked the lawyer listed as the contact at Safari whether Sarah and Todd Palin were the buyers, and he said he had no comment. This "truly does raise some political eyebrows," says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. With Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announcing he won't run, "the GOP presidential wannabe field now appears so limp" (to use one of Palin's favorite insults for a male foe) that it is probably more tempting than ever for the former Alaska governor to jump into the race.
April 18, 2011
Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, rolls out a new, dramatically beefed up website. The change will make it easier for the PAC to collect supporters' email addresses, and get their feedback. "If you ask me, this is another hint about Palin and 2012," says Jennifer Caballero at Liberty Pundits. It isn't necessarily the definitive sign Palin will take the plunge, says Andy Barr at Politico, but setting up a central place where supporters can get information, and make donations, is "a necessary step if Palin intends to run." And the Monday website relaunch came after a weekend anti-union speech that admirers called a "grand slam" certain to strike fear in the hearts of President Obama and Palin's GOP rivals.
March 18, 2011
Palin embarks on a trip to India and Israel "in an effort to hone her foreign policy," says Amanda Carey at The Daily Caller. Her visit to Jerusalem, where she met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is the third by a potential GOP candidate in recent months, following Haley Barbour and Mitt Romney. Indeed, this is "a sign that she is running for 2012, and that she wants to reaffirm her commitment to Israel," says Cubachi.com. It also comes on the heels of a bad news cycle for the ex-Alaska governor. Recent polls show that her approval ratings have plummeted among Republicans and independents, and one Public Policy Polling survey even reported that independent voters would back volatile actor Charlie Sheen over Palin by a margin of 41 percent to 36 percent. If that result isn't the "death knell" for Palin's presidential ambitions, says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice, "it certainly means GOP conservatives who are opposed to her are going have some great sound-byte ammunition."
March 8, 2011
It emerges that Palin will skip the first GOP debate, scheduled for May 2, in favor of a fundraising gala for military veterans. While the other Republican frontrunners are expected to debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, Palin has committed to hosting a "Tribute to the Troops" in Denver on the same night. This is the clearest sign yet that Palin is preparing to "disappoint her millions of ardent supporters by not running for president," says D. K. Jamaal at Examiner.com. I'm not so sure, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Perhaps Palin is hoping to "steal the spotlight away from the debate," and "build momentum for a splashy late entry into the race."
February 17, 2011
At an event on Long Island, Palin hints at a presidential run and says "nobody's more qualified" for the job than "a woman, a mom," who has experience in government as a mayor or "a governor maybe" ... and as a vice presidential candidate. While Palin has given that answer before, says Maggie Haberman at Politico, this time she also spoke "at fair length about the type of campaign she'd run." Palin, says Jeff Zeleny in The New York Times, clearly signaled that her decision about a 2012 bid "could come sooner rather than later."
December 20, 2010
As Palin's reality TV show comes to an end, an ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that almost six in ten Americans say they wouldn't consider voting for Palin in 2012. A meager 8 percent say they would "definitely" back the Alaskan conservative if she ran, and another 31 percent said they would consider supporting her. A total of 59 percent "flatly rule out" voting for Palin. "If [Palin's] goal was to become rich and famous," says Terry Keenan in the New York Post, then she's had a great year. But in presidential terms, 2010 "might turn out to be the year of missed opportunity." If she had "stuck it out and served her full term as Alaska governor," Americans might now see her as a viable candidate.
November 17, 2010
Palin admits she is consulting her family about a presidential run, telling The New York Times that she is "engaged in the internal deliberations candidly." On the same day, she tells ABC News she believes she could defeat Obama in a 2012 match-up. Palin is "poised to run," says Chris McGreal in The Guardian. Her confirmation that she's openly discussing her political future "may lay to rest speculation that she was merely flirting with the idea to keep her name in the spotlight." And what many won't admit, adds Taylor Marsh at her blog, especially her enemies, is that "without Sarah Palin in the race it won't be nearly as exciting."
October 12, 2010
In a taped interview, Palin tells right wing website NewsMax that she is still considering a presidential run. "I just think that anyone is foolish to prematurely close any door that perhaps will be open for them," she says. A Bloomberg National Poll released the same day, however, shows at that in a hypothetical matchup with President Obama, Palin trails by 16 points. Mother Jones' David Corn wonders about some of Palin's NewsMax comments, when she says it's up to the American people to determine whether they want "someone a bit unconventional, out of the box... or if they want someone a little bit more conventional, maybe more electable." Corn asks, "Was Palin really suggesting she's not that electable?"
October 5, 2010
An email leaked to Alaskan politics blog The Mudflats supposedly suggests Palin might be preparing a bid for president. The message is from Palin's husband, Todd, to GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller, castigating him for saying he didn't know whether or not Palin was qualified to be president. "Joe, please explain how this endorsement stuff works," wrote Todd Palin. "Is it to be completely one-sided?" This is "the most conclusive evidence to date that Palin will be running for president," says reporter Jeanne Devon. Er, no it isn't, counters Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine. Todd was just angry at Miller's "seeming ingratitude" toward his wife, not seeking to "collect an endorsement in anticipation of a presidential run."
September 23, 2010
In her least coy comment on the subject to date, Sarah Palin told Fox's Greta Van Susteren that she would run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination if no other candidate "were to step up with the solutions" the country needs to "get the economy back on the right track" and fight "those on the extreme left who seem to want to dismantle some of our national security tools that we have in place." This is a "straightforward statement of interest in the presidency," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. But the GOP's 2012 nomination won't come down to issues like the economy and national security. The Tea Party has Republicans so scared they'll probably all stick to Palin's "true conservative" line. (Watch a clip of Palin's appearance on Fox)
August 31, 2010
It's announced that Palin will headline the Iowa Republican Party's biggest annual fundraiser, the Reagan Dinner in Des Moines on September 17. Some speculate that the visit will allow Palin to evaluate her prospects and lay groundwork ahead of the the 2012 Iowa Caucus, which launches the presidential nominating process. "If she's serious about her own prospects, she needs to be here — and she's doing that with a big, high-profile event," Ann Trimble-Ray, an adviser to Congressman Steve King, told the Des Moines Register.
August 30, 2010
Even though Palin builds up an enviable record of endorsing candidates in 2010 — 11 out of 19 Palin-approved candidates have gone on to win their primaries — her supposed "golden touch" does not expand her base of supporters. In a Vanity Fair/ "60 Minutes" poll, 59 percent of Americans say Palin would not have the ability to be an effective president. More worryingly still for the Alaskan conservative, four out of ten self-identified Republicans agree. These "awful numbers" suggest the "prospects of a Palin presidency are, for the moment, quite unlikely," says Michael Crowley at TIME.
July 14, 2010
Palin's daughter Bristol renews her engagement to estranged fiancee Levi Johnston, removing a "blemish from [Palin's] wholesome narrative," says Mark Halperin at TIME. "Although she has taken few steps to prepare for a presidential contest, her path is becoming clearer."
July 9, 2010
Palin releases a video commercial that ostensibly promotes conservative female candidates running for office in 2010 (a.k.a. "Mama Grizzlies"), but is widely perceived as a quasi-Palin-campaign statement. Watching this "slick political ad," says The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, made me think "for the first time [that] she really may run." Meanwhile, news breaks that Palin's political action committee has raised more than $865,000 in the past three months, prompting speculation that she's amassing a war chest for a 2012 run.
March 26, 2010
Off again? Palin signs up with the Discovery Channel to appear in "Sarah Palin's Alaska," a reality TV show "travelogue," leading Susan Davis at The Wall Street Journal to question anew the presidential ambitions theory. Jeremy Helligar at True/Slant also weighs in: "Is this the future candidate she wants to put forward? Someone following in the footsteps of Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian?"
February 6, 2010
The tide turns again when Palin makes an ebullient keynote speech at the first Tea Party convention that, as Politico notes, can be seen as "an aggressive play to become the leader of the Tea Party, which could boost her prospects of securing the 2012 Republican presidential nomination." After her speech elicits chants of "run, Sarah, run" from the grassroots audience, Palin tells Fox News, "I would be willing to [run] if I believe that it's right for the country." It's the "strongest hint yet that she has her eyes on a 2012 campaign," says Ed Pilkington in The Guardian.
January 11, 2010
Palin's decision to sign up as a Fox News contributor dampens rumors of a 2012 run. While Mark Greenbaum at The Christian Science Monitor observes that "she is no longer a politician but a pop culture icon and a celebrity," Rick Klein at ABC News says the new direction appears to be a "step away from elected office." Palin is building up her political brand "in ways that don't necessarily include a run for the presidency in 2012."
December 6, 2009
During her Going Rogue promotional tour, Palin stops at Sioux City, Iowa, for a book-signing session, raising suspicions. "Because Iowa's caucuses have traditionally launched the presidential nominating season," says Barbara Pinto at ABC News, "the visit is fueling speculation that Palin is working early on to endear herself to Iowa voters."
November 17, 2009
Palin's memoir, Going Rogue, hits bookstores, prompting the Associated Press to publish a damning report on its factual "errors." In the book, she says her decision to retire as governor of Alaska was made, in part, to "disarm [her] opponents" and "free [her] up to travel and raise money." Teddy Davis at ABC News reads this as a veiled admission that "her resignation has left her in a strong position to run for president."
October 28, 2009
A CNN poll finds that seven out of ten Americans think Palin is not qualified to be President, even though a majority find her "honest and trustworthy." Calling the results a "perturbation in Sarah Palin's orbit," Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic suggests that "she would do well to gain experience if she wants to run for president."
July 3, 2009
Palin announces her resignation as governor of Alaska, renewing speculation she is paving the way for a 2012 run. The move frees Palin to "build a national political team and travel the country in support of an expected 2012 presidential bid," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post.
This article — originally published on July 16, 2010 — was last updated on August 22, 2011.