Sarah Palin left chanting supporters at a Tea Party rally in Iowa without a clear signal about her presidential ambitions while demonstrating she intends to remain a vocal critic of Democratic and Republican politicians.
“America is at a tipping point,” said Palin, 47. “This is a systemic crisis due to failed policies and incompetent leadership.”
The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee brought her brand of celebrity-infused politics to a spot in Iowa yesterday where Barack Obama spoke to a fundraising event four years earlier as he was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The outdoor event at the Indianola Balloon Grounds south of Des Moines was sponsored by a Tea Party group and drew about 2,000 people, who waited in steady rain for Palin.
The former Alaska governor’s plans remain in doubt for the field seeking to challenge Obama in 2012. Palin, who is also scheduled to speak in New Hampshire on Labor Day, has said she will announce her decision by the end of September.
In her 40-minute speech, she kept most of the focus on Obama, without mentioning any of the Republicans running for president. Yet some of her remarks sounded like they were aimed at potential opponents, if she decides to run.
She cautioned against “corporate crony capitalism” triggered by campaign contributions and called for a detailed inspection of the candidates.
Vetting the Record
“You must vet a candidate’s record,” she said. “You must know their ability to successfully reform and actually fix problems that they are going to claim that they inherited.”
Palin said the Republican presidential candidates need to be asked “what, if anything, do their donors expect” in return for their investments.
“We need to know this because our country can’t afford more trillion dollar thank-you notes to campaign backers,” she said. “Like you, I’m not for sale.”
After her speech, Palin said her comments weren’t directed at Texas Governor Rick Perry, the frontrunner in the Republican field. He has been the subject of stories in recent days by news organizations examining potential links between actions in Texas and campaign contributions he has received.
“I want all of our GOP candidates to take the opportunity to kill corporate capitalism that is leading to this cronyism that is killing our economy,” she told reporters. “They all have an opportunity to speak out against it.”
Letting Followers Down
Palin ducked when asked how she could let her followers down by not getting into the race.
“Oh, these are such nice people,” she said.
In her speech, Palin said she would like to see the elimination of all federal corporate income taxes. She said she would replace the lost revenue by eliminating “corporate welfare,” “all loopholes” and “all bailouts,” calling them “socialism for the very rich.”
Palin told her Tea Party supporters to expect difficulties between now and the election in November 2012.
“I can tell you from hard-earned experience, with bumps and bruises along the way, that the road ahead is not easy,” she said. “You will be demonized. They’ll mock you. They’ll make things up. They’ll tell you to go to hell.”
Palin offered no insight about her future plans when she spoke briefly to reporters on Sept. 2 in Iowa.
Happy With Field
“I’m happy with the field of candidates,” she said during a visit to the Machine Shed restaurant in a suburb west of Des Moines. “There’s room for more, though, because a spirited debate and more competition will allow for an even better discourse and a more rigorous discourse that the public deserves.”
Amid chants of “Run, Sarah, run,” Palin spent about 45 minutes shaking hands and posing for photos with members of “Organize4Palin” and “Conservatives4Palin,” groups that are urging her to enter the race. The gathering drew supporters from as far away as New Mexico, Texas and California.
Time is running short, even for Palin, who has shown her celebrity and ability to attract attention gives her a fundraising advantage, should she decide to run.
The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 6, five months from now, and three candidate debates are set for this month, as party activists in early-voting states begin to focus more closely on the contest after Labor Day.
Work to Do
Craig Robinson, editor of the Iowa Republican website and a former state party political director, said Palin would have “an awful lot of work to do” if she gets into the race.
Political expectations would require her to win Iowa because the state’s demographics and socially conservative nature would be more favorable to her, Robinson said.
“If she is not going to win the state of Iowa, I don’t know what early state she could win,” he said. “After September, it’s going to be almost impossible to jump in the race and win the Iowa caucuses.”
Palin also faces state-filing deadlines for presidential candidates, including one on Nov. 1 for the primary in South Carolina. The southern state is scheduled to follow Iowa and New Hampshire in nomination voting next year.
Obama, 50, may be politically vulnerable amid 9.1 percent unemployment and approval ratings near lows of his presidency.
The Republican contest has changed since the Aug. 13 entry into the race by Perry, who has surged into first place in national polls, surpassing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the frontrunner.
Romney has started to engage more directly with Perry, including modifying his schedule to allow him to attend a Tea Party rally in New Hampshire today and a candidate forum in South Carolina on Labor Day.
Should she join the race, Palin would face a large bloc of voters already opposed to her. A poll released Aug. 25 by the Pew Research Center found 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters say there is no chance they would vote for Palin.
Such numbers don’t trouble Cynthia Hood, 55, a retired registered nurse who drove more than eight hours from her home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to see Palin.
“I certainly hope she will run and I think she will do it,” she said. “She will take on the establishment.”
Palin’s entry could provide a boost for Romney because Palin, Perry and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota would all be competing for the Tea Party and social conservative vote in Iowa. In Iowa’s 2008 Republican caucuses, 60 percent who attended described themselves to pollsters as born-again or evangelical Christians.
A Gallup poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters released Aug. 24 showed Palin in third place nationwide among actual and potential candidates tested.
Perry led with 25 percent, followed by Romney at 14 percent. Palin finished third in the poll at 11 percent, tied with Representative Ron Paul of Texas. The poll, taken Aug. 17-21, had a margin of error of four percentage points.