GOP left guessing about Palin as she tamps down talk of Labor Day launch

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) sought to maintain a shroud of mystery surrounding her political intentions, lashing out Monday night at pundits who claim to know whether she'll run for president. 

Palin is keeping even the Republicans who are best-positioned to glean some inside intelligence in the dark; they express varying opinions about whether she's likely to run.

"My sense is that Sarah Palin has been actively staying engaged to keep her name in the mix. I just think she was going to put out a stronger indication by now if she was going to run," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on a Monday phone interview. "I still think Sarah Palin isn't going to enter this race."

Karl Rove, a former political adviser for President George W. Bush, disagreed. Palin "has a schedule next week that looks like that of a candidate, not a celebrity," Rove said on "Fox News Sunday."

It was this analysis that prompted Palin's political organization, Sarah PAC, to issue a blistering statement overnight tamping down expectations about her political future.

"Any professional pundit claiming to have 'inside information' regarding Gov. Palin's personal decision is not only wrong but their comments are specifically intended to mislead the American public," the PAC said on its blog.

At issue is the Sept. 3 speech Palin will deliver to a Tea Party group in Iowa. That heavily promoted speech, combined with Palin's trip to the Iowa state fair — and the slickly produced video that resulted — has stoked speculation that Palin would jump into the race over the Labor Day weekend.

It's not an unreasonable theory; Palin herself has said that she'll decide whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination "in short order," a timeline she acknowledged meant no later than the end of September.

Whether that means the 2008 vice presidential nominee will jump into the race on September's first weekend is another story. The Sarah PAC blog posting flagged a CNN article from Palin saying she doubted that she would join the race by Labor Day.

That means that even people like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who helped launch Palin's national profile when he picked Palin as his running mate, are left in the dark.

"I have no inside information. I think she would make a very viable candidate," he said yesterday on Fox News. "I continue to appreciate her and her hard work and consider her always a good friend. And I think she would make a very big impact on the presidential campaign."

And King, despite his skepticism, said he would still be happy to see her join the field; the Iowa conservative is glad Palin's able to keep her cards so close to her vest.

"She has defied conventional wisdom before," he said. "It doesn't frustrate me, not at all. I'm glad she can keep a secret."