Kate Harmon  /  AP
Sarah Palin, center, talks with fans at the front of the Courtyard Marriott at Gateway Gettysburg on Monday evening. Palin and her family began an East Coast tour in Washington on Sunday, renewing speculation that the former Alaska governor would join the still unsettled Republican presidential contest.
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updated 5/31/2011 11:31:12 AM ET 2011-05-31T15:31:12

Sarah Palin said Monday she is "still kind of contemplating" a presidential campaign as she and her family set off from the U.S. capital on a bus tour of historical sites that left observers puzzled about what the former Alaska governor planned next — both for her schedule and her career.

Palin and her aides refused to share basic details about the "One Nation" tour that was scheduled to take her from Washington to the northeastern New England states in the days ahead. The East Coast swing renewed questions about Palin's next moves, including whether she would enter the still-forming Republican presidential field.

"We're still kind of contemplating that," she said in brief comments to reporters who stumbled onto her Monday at the National Archives.

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field
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Palin's tour started Sunday with the 2008 vice presidential nominee and her family riding motorcycles from the Pentagon to the National Mall with thousands of others.

According to her website, she spent Monday's Memorial Day holiday looking at the nation's founding documents at the Archives; stopping by Fort McHenry in Baltimore, whose bombardment by British warships in 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner," the U.S. national anthem, and George Washington's home at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Story: Palin a no-show for fans at Civil War battlefield

"I've said before that George Washington is my favorite founding father because he was reluctant to serve, and yet he rose to the great challenges before him," Palin wrote on her political committee's website. "I can certainly see why he dreaded leaving his home on the Potomac. His servant's heart is an inspiration to us all."

Story: Bachmann: GOP race can handle me and Palin

'It's still a matter of looking at the field'
Palin remains one of the biggest question marks for Republicans, who have not yet settled on a front-runner to challenge President Barack Obama's re-election bid. While many of Palin's likely rivals have worked to build campaign organizations in early nominating states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, Palin has taken no concrete steps to begin a presidential campaign.

Palin rolls out at motorcycle rally

Given Palin's star power, she might be able to wait longer than others. But the clock is ticking, the party establishment isn't happy with its options and one of the earliest tests of campaign infrastructure, the straw poll in Ames, Iowa, is scheduled for August. A debate in New Hampshire, another early nominating state, is scheduled in two weeks.

Reporters who found her at some stops didn't get clarity on Palin's next moves or whether her bus tour was a preview of a presidential campaign.

"I think Americans are ready for true change," she said at the National Archives.

Asked directly whether she was running, she told reporters who found her in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: "I don't know, I honestly don't know."

"It's still a matter of looking at the field," she told reporters who bet she would visit the site of the pivotal 1863 Civil War battlefield on Tuesday. She added: "The field is not set yet — not by a long shot."

Story: GOP presidential contenders drift to the right

'I don't think I owe anything to the mainstream media'
In an interview with her employer, Fox News Channel, Palin twitted reporters who scoured the East Coast looking for her, trying to make sense of her political strategy or even basic itinerary.

"I want them to have to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this. That would include, not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop is going to be, you know?"

In excerpts from the Fox News interview, the former television journalist criticized what she calls the "mainstream media."

"They want kind of the conventional idea of, 'We want a schedule, we want to follow you, we want you to take us along with you,'" Palin said.

"I don't think I owe anything to the mainstream media. I think that it would be a mistake for me to become some kind of conventional politician and doing things the way it's always been done with the media, in terms of relationships with them."

Instead, Palin said she'll offer her own coverage: "I'll write about that at the end of the day."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Palin plays game of 'catch me if you can'

  1. Closed captioning of: Palin plays game of 'catch me if you can'

    >>> we turn now to politics. sarah palin spent the day the way she spent yesterday. on a bus ride , taking the media along for a ride, stopping at sites of historical persistence drawing crowds, talking to folks, mostly getting attention, as she is right this very minute, and causing people to ask what she's up to as we will in a moment. tonight our chopper here in new york found the bus in a jersey city parking lot , not moving, at least for the moment. so first we start with how an alaska politician ended up in jersey by way of philly, and that job tonight falls to nbc's mike taibbi . mike, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian . how are you? i'm outside the liberty bell in philadelphia, sarah palin 's last stop before heading up the turnpike, a trip you know well, to get to new jersey. but if this is the run-up to an actual campaign for the white house , brian , this is as odd and unconventional a political trip as anyone can remember. which is just the way sarah palin says that she'd want it to be.

    >> thank you so much for your help today.

    >> yes.

    >> reporter: outside her hotel after visiting the gettysburg battlefields, sarah palin autographed anything put in front of her, including a t-shirt worn by one fan and in one of her few statements to a press corps straining to follow her said again she hasn't made up her mind about running.

    >> i don't know. i honestly don't know. it's still a matter of looking at the field.

    >> reporter: her one-nation tour began with a motorcycle ride outside the pentagon on saturday.

    >> how are you?

    >> reporter: and by its conclusion will reportedly take her from washington, d.c. to new hampshire. she's posted no schedule for reporters to follow. no need, she said.

    >> i'm having a great time with our family and our alaskan friends and our pennsylvania fans who met us here today.

    >> sorry p.

    >> reporter: however, the political reality is even though in recent polls more than half of those questioned view her unfavorably she inspires passionate support among her conservative base including those who couldn't get close to her at the liberty bell .

    >> go all the way, sarah!

    >> reporter: on this trip, though, she's mostly been stopping, in baltimore and pittsburgh's fort mchenry , and with reporters and photographers scrambling to keep up by convoy, even by air in the occasional coffee shop .

    >> thank you, guys, did you get my coffee?

    >> reporter: it was a cat and mouse game with the press by design, which her supporters said made no difference.

    >> even without telling people where she's going everyone's finding her. so i think she's a really important person for the conservative movement and i really hope she runs.

    >> reporter: there's that question again. will she or won't she?

    >> when will you decide, governor?

    >> reporter: and once again the same answer. maybe.

    >> truly there is still a lot of time for folks to make up their mind and jump in and get their campaigns together. the field isn't set yet. not by a long shot.

    >> reporter: well, as the chopper saw, palin and her family have now checked into that hotel in jersey city , which is just in shouting distance of ellis island , liberty island , likely stops on tomorrow's agenda. but first tonight dinner in manhattan with another would-be contender for the gop nod who turned out to be a pretender, donald trump . brian ?

    >> oh, just too much rich material there, mike, but we're going to leave it right there anyway. mike taibbi at the liberty bell in philly. one of the stops along the cavalcade today. mike, thanks.

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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