WASHINGTON — Sarah Palin’s support among Republicans has shrunk and there’s no evidence she’s close to saying whether she will run for president in 2012.
But it’s clear she wants to be part of the conversation.
After seemingly staying on the sidelines this spring, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee is back with public appearances, fiery criticism of President Barack Obama and a strong defense of Donald Trump, the reality TV show host who has raised questions about the president’s background without offering any proof of his assertions.
“What the heck is wrong with asking the president of the United States to disclose what his college thesis was, what some of the Harvard Law Review papers were that he wrote?” Palin said last week. She was adding her voice to a Trump-led chorus of critics who question how much the country knows about its president.
Discussing Trump, she said, “Right now, he’s got the spotlight, he’s got the megaphone. Now is his opportunity to really force a shift in debate and discussion in this country.”
Palin used to be able to say that about herself. But she’s been overshadowed by other Republicans who have taken steps toward the White House or, like Trump, are considering running.
Palin, who abruptly resigned the Alaska governor’s office before finishing her first term, doesn’t seem to be doing the spadework so far that others are as the 2012 nomination fight gets going.
She hasn’t set up campaign organizations in Iowa, New Hampshire or other early nominating states. Her political travel seems haphazard and lacks the pattern of most contenders. For example, she hasn’t been to New Hampshire since 2008, but she rallied tea party activists in Wisconsin as Gov. Scott Walker pushed a bill that weakened public unions’ bargaining rights.
An Associated Press-GfK survey from late-March found 57 percent of adults holding an unfavorable view of her. The survey marked her worst rating yet among Republicans. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans view her favorably but that number is down from 79 percent in November 2010.
Her favorability dips to just 38 percent among the four in 10 Republicans who don’t support the tea party. Among those Republicans who do support it, 79 percent say they hold a positive view of Palin.
Even so, she’s making sure her voice is heard.
She planned a speech Saturday in a Washington suburb at a closed-door, $250-a-plate fundraiser for an anti-abortion organization. On Monday, she is to appear at a $15-a-person fundraiser for military families at Colorado Christian University. She’s speaking at the same event as retired Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, who has made statements portraying the fight against terrorism as a Christian fight against Satan and suggesting that Muslims worship idols.
Palin’s also been firing up her conservative base on Fox News Channel, where she is a paid contributor, and in other interviews by scorning Obama. Recently, she:
—Invoked William Ayers, a one-time member of the Weather Underground organization, which bombed federal buildings in protest of the Vietnam War. Obama worked with Ayers on community projects in Chicago decades later. She suggested Ayers wrote Obama’s memoirs, though she offered no evidence.
—Tweaked Obama on his off-hours hobbies: “I know, I know, granted you will be even busier very soon. After all, golf season kicks into high gear shortly. NBA and NHL brackets await. Summer vacations and that all-consuming campaign whistle stop tour will no doubt slam you,” she posted on Facebook.
—Summarized Obama’s energy policy as “outright bonkers.”
So, for now at least, she’s ensuring she’s part of the political discourse. The answer to whether she becomes part of the presidential race, itself, will come later.
AP Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta in Washington and Associated Press writer Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.