Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) will begin a nationwide bus tour on Sunday in a move designed to drum up support for a potential presidential bid.
Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, has not announced her 2012 intentions, but many see the tour as another in a series of signs she’s considering getting into the race — a move that would shake up the GOP field.
She will start her tour in Washington at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, according to a statement posted on the SarahPAC website. It is expected to last several weeks and include stops in key early primary states.
“Starting this weekend, Sarah Palin will embark on a ‘One Nation Tour’ of historical sites that were key to the formation, survival and growth of the United States of America,” the statement reads. “The tour will originate in Washington, D.C., and will proceed north up the East Coast.”
Other details have yet to be released. Photos of the bus reveal that the tour’s slogan is “Join the fundamental restoration of America.”
Most observers believed the GOP presidential field to be set, particularly after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, business mogul Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declined to run.
But several Republicans have expressed unhappiness with their choices, prompting speculation a dark-horse candidate could enter the field.
Palin has fueled that talk with a series of moves that point toward a likely candidacy.
A feature film commissioned by Palin is expected to be released next month in Iowa. It puts a positive touch on her tenure as Alaska’s governor.
She has reportedly purchased a home in Scottsdale, Ariz., which many see as a potential base for a presidential campaign.
Veteran Iowa GOP strategist Bob Haus said that Palin’s moves amount to a prelude of the more serious steps taken when running for president.
“This is more serious than trying to get a day or two news cycle,” he said. “These are substantial steps in the right direction if she wants to run for president.”
Last week, Palin downplayed talk that she does not have the “fire in her belly” to run.
“I think my problem is that I do have the fire in my belly,” she said on Fox News. “I’m so adamantly supportive of the good traditional things about America and our free-enterprise system, and I want to make sure that America is put back on the right track, and we only do that by defeating Obama in 2012.”
And Palin said last month if she does announce, she might not use conventional means, like forming an exploratory committee.
“I’ve never really run for anything conventionally. ... I’ve just jumped in there and done it when I’ve known it’s the right thing to do. So it’s going to be an unconventional run if I choose to do that,” she told Fox.
Haus said that Palin’s name identification and “wherewithal” means that she can afford to enter the race late and put other GOP candidates on their heels.
If she wants to, he said, she can “start a race whenever she wants to start a race.”
Fox News, however, said it would not be changing Palin’s status as a paid contributor, an indication that a run might not be as imminent as some believe.
“We’re not changing her status,” said Fox News vice president for programming Bill Shine.
Fox suspended the contracts of former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) when the network received indication they were taking concrete steps toward running for president. Both later announced bids.
Michael O’Brien contributed.
— This post was updated at 2:17 p.m. and at 8:25 p.m.