DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hasn't announced her 2012 plans, but she stole the show at the Iowa State Fair on Friday.
Palin and her husband, Todd, had a private lunch with supporters — including longtime Iowa fundraiser Becky Beach — on the fairgrounds, then walked over to admire the life-size "butter cow" sculpture, stopping along the way to take photos with fair-goers. While many presidential candidates had already appeared on the fairgrounds Friday, she was the only one who drew such a thick throng of onlookers and supporters, along with a clutch of media coverage.
"[I came] because this is the [time] period of the state fair. We've been invited the last couple of years, and finally this year we had the opportunity, while on our bus tour, to swing in," Palin told The Hill. "We're very thankful to get to highlight this historic American event."
Her decision to visit the fair came recently, and there was criticism that she was trying to overshadow the straw poll, leaving Palin promising not to attend the Saturday event.
She told reporters earlier in the day that she hadn't made up her mind about a presidential run.
"I think there is plenty of time to jump in the race," she said, according to reports. "Watching the whole process over the last year certainly shows me that, yes, there is plenty of room for more people."
She added: "I don't think I'm stealing any spotlights. We're very thankful to have been invited by friends, and I'm glad we could make it."
Despite the public event, Palin didn't make it easy for reporters to find her. Her staff didn't release a schedule or announce her stops, leaving fans and the media to track her movements via word of mouth and Twitter.
Her visit came while other presidential contenders were addressing voters at the Des Moines Register's soapbox, a traditional stopping place for candidates, and looking for support in Saturday's straw poll.
Palin, meanwhile, visited the livestock area, stopping to address reporters.
When asked by The Hill if Iowans should be unhappy with Texas Gov. Rick Perry's planned campaign announcement during Saturday's straw poll, she said very few actual voters would care.
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"I'm not engaged in, and I think most Americans are not engaged in, that kind of inside baseball, who's perceived to be stepping on whose toes when it comes to a candidate or potential candidate being in a state or not at a specific time," Palin said. "I think the vast majority of American are very, very busy running ... their lives, raising their families, running their businesses, and those types of people aren't as obsessed with the process of political campaigns."
When told that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had struck down the portion of President Obama's healthcare law that requires everyone to purchase health insurance, Palin paused. "I am thankful for that, and for the Iowa folks who have also supported this side, which ha[s] been victorious in striking that down," she said.