Image: Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin and her husband Todd.
Jim Young  /  REUTERS
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin and her husband Todd visit the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 12, 2011.
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updated 8/12/2011 4:35:50 PM ET 2011-08-12T20:35:50

For at least one day, Sarah Palin acted and sounded like someone still seriously considering running for president. The former Alaska governor made a visit to the Iowa State Fair on Friday, a traditional stop for Republican presidential candidate a day before the Iowa Straw Poll.

Palin's name isn't on the ballot Saturday, but she indicated it might be when Iowans make their decision next year during the caucuses.

"There is still plenty of room in that field for a common-sense conservative," said Palin, surrounded by a throng of reporters as she walked through the fair. "Watching the debate, not just last night, but watching this whole process over the past year, it has certainly shown me there's plenty of room for more people."

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News of Palin's visit spread quickly through the fair, drawing reporters away from a speech from presidential candidate Rick Santorum to a bare-bricked barn filled with bovines. There, Palin, dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans and standing next to her husband, Todd, answered a litany of questions.

Asked about the unflattering Newsweek cover of Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Palin quipped: "I've had my own experiences with Newsweek," adding that she thought it was trying to make a "conservative candidate" look bad.

She also shot back at critics who say the tea party caused the country's credit downgrade. "The last group or entity to be blamed for downgrade is tea party," she said. "They're the ones who sounded the warning bells there for the last couple years."

The former vice presidential nominee also welcomed Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is set to officially announce his candidacy Saturday in South Carolina, into the race.

"I appreciate that Perry sounds like now he's going to be in the race because that adds to the debate," she said. "I appreciate that he's willing to jump into the arena."

Palin spent about 90 minutes touring the fairgrounds, posing for pictures and talking with reporters before leaving. Some in attendance with her were still stunned to see the conservative icon.

Melissa Doll, a 46-year old teacher from Lynnville, was excited to have snapped a picture on her cellphone.

"We've been at the hog show. Who knew?" she said. "You never know who you're going to see at the Iowa state fair."

The article, "Palin makes an Ames appearance," first appeared in the National Journal.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

Video: Sarah Palin heads to Iowa

  1. Closed captioning of: Sarah Palin heads to Iowa

    >>> sarah palin is restarting her one nation publicity seeking bus tour rolling in to the iowa state fair in des moines tomorrow, just in time to grab some of the attention being paid to the republican presidential candidates while mitt romney , tim pawlenty , michelle bachmann and the others debate and compete in the ames straw poll , palin will be, quote, her words, restoring all that is good and strong and free. and she'll be doing that at the iowa state fair . she also said i'm also excited to try some of that famous fried butter on a stick, fried cheesecake on a stick, fried twinkies, etc. i'll join them in honor in spite of people who would rather like to just make us eat our peas. they join new hampshire on the day romney would announce his candidacy. and sarah palin also happened to be in iowa to attend a premiere about the documentary about her entitled "the undefeated." the paul simon public policy institute at carbondale and former chief political columnist for the des moines register . thank you for joining us tonight, david.

    >> good to be with you.

    >> has iowa caught on to the palin publicity bus tour this is all about getting attention for sarah palin ? or are some people in iowa , some of the good people desperately hoping she's going to run for president?

    >> no, i think more and more republicans are not happy with her. the ones i talked to, what is she doing kind of thing. i think early on, they were willing to give her the benefit of the count. but there doubt. there's a point if you're serious, the saying out here is you have to fish or cut bait. by flitting around with this thing, it does start to take on the aura of publicity to her when in fact when she wants to run for president, she needs to be doing events, doing some retail politics. and they're not seeing that yet.

    >> doesn't perry 's move allow his spokesman today saying he'll announce on saturday to say he's running for president, doesn't perry getting more serious even highlight how unserious the palin publicity tour is?

    >> well, you're talking about two different potential candidates here. i think governor perry is real. but like sarah palin , you know, he can -- he's got to get in this thing in a big way if he expects iowa republicans to take him seriously. a lot of respect for governor perry . i think that -- a lot of people want to see him run. and, you know, at some point, you have to get out of the jet and start doing the retail work that goes into winning an iowa caucus campaign, like the other candidates are doing. and so i think -- i don't think he -- at some point, he's got to start slogging it out with all of the rest of the candidates.

    >> it seems to be that he's going to say in effect in no uncertain terms on saturday that he's going to run for president. and then there's some indication that he may be flying to iowa as soon as sunday. if he does that, and he gets -- he starts getting serious in iowa as early as sunday, will it be forgiven that he did not participate in the straw poll and he didn't get started earlier?

    >> yes, i think it will be forgiven. one of the effects that happens in iowa in both parties, lawrence, when candidates get in or get out is it unsettles the race. so if people like governor perry and sarah palin decide to get in the race, republican activists are not going to automatically sign up for them. they're going to move to undecided. most of the caucus-goers are professional undecideds, they're preferences, enthusiastic supporters. these are people, they want to see all of the events. they want to see the candidates. the same phenomenon in new hampshire as you know. if governor perry gets in this, he'll unsettle the race for a while. and there'll be plenty of time for him to do the retail work that he needs. he's got to start doing it. that's my point.

    >> tell us how to watch the straw poll on saturday. it has produced in the past some results that had absolutely no meaning going forward in the campaign. but also it gave the win to george w. bush . when he was running for president, he ended up with the nomination and the presidency. what do you do for saturday?

    >> for better or worse, the straw poll as brewer said gives iowa two bites at the apple. it takes on the same trappings of the caucuses themselves. it will do two things. one, it can potentially knock some candidates out of the race. if they do poorly, governor pawlenty and gingrich, some of the others -- herman kahne, i think some of them will have trouble raising money. that's happened in the past, it's not the candidate or the race. the other thing it can do is elevate candidates. a lot of media attention and publicity. even with all of sarah palin and governor perry buzzing around the thing, a win is a win. it will be a headline. it will elevate some candidates. those are the two things that i think this straw poll will do.

    >> and the -- the front-runner of the front-runner up until the perry entrance in the campaign, mitt romney , who has been largely ignoring iowa , what kind of price does he pay for doing that?

    >> well, you know, i think mitt romney is trying to have a little bit of both ways. he's made a huge investment in the state in the past. he spent $10 million. he spent a lot of time in this state. he's well known to activist republicans. he's led in some of the early polls here. but what he's trying to do is make sure that the national media doesn't label him a front-runner in iowa in case somebody comes along and beats him. so it's called tamping down his expectations. but he's here. he's moving around. he's got people who are trying to do things on his behalf. and so i think romney is trying to have it both ways. but politicians who run for president always do that.

    >> they do. the former chief political columnist for the register, now the director of the paul simon public policy institute at southern illinois university carbondale . thank you for joining me tonight.

    >> thanks, lawn rens.

    >> -- lawrence.

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