She looks like a candiate. She sounds like a candidate. She's still touring key primary states in a vast, personalised camper van. But as the race for the Republican presidential nomination stutters into something like full gear, Sarah Palin still hasn't announced whether she intends to join the fray.
To the disappointment of supporters - who braved muddy fields and rainy conditions, carrying signs urging “run, Sarah, run!” - the former Governor of Alaska passed-up yet another opportunity to formally join the race for 2012 when she addressed a Tea Party rally in Iowa this weekend.
Short on detailed policy, but long on criticisms of Barack Obama, the 40-minute address included several veiled broadsides at the GOP field and its current front runner Rick Perry, the right-wing governor of Texas. But it contained not a shred of information about whether the speaker would be offering herself up as an alternative.
Palin has promised to decide one way or another by the end of this month. However every passing day leaves further ground for her to make up on rivals. Barring an announcement in the next 48 hours, she won't be taking part in Wednesday night's high-profile GOP debate at the Reagan Library in Los Angeles.
Though she can still draw headlines, the uncertainty has left growing questions about Palin's ability to draw votes. She can now be backed at 20/1 to win the race, having once been 4/1 second favourite. A recent poll for Fox News showed that 74 percent of voters think she should stay out, inlcuding 71 percent of Republicans and a surprising 66 percent of Tea Party members.
With identikit rival Michelle Bachmann hoovering-up attention, her ability to raise funds is also a matter of growing debate. Small donors gave Palin $1.6 million in the first six months of this year. But to mount a credible campaign into early next year, she'll need a war-chest of tens of millions.
Sarah Palin wouldn't be Sarah Palin if she crumbled in the face of adversity, though. “Polls? Nah... They're for strippers and cross-country skiers,” she told the roughly 2,000 activists in rural Indianola, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon.
In an aside which was seen as a criticism of Rick Perry, who has been accused of granting special favours to campaign donors during his Governorship, Palin headlined her speech with a condemnation of “crony capitalism” and the nation's “permanent political class.”
The remainder of her speech was meanwhile devoted to describing how she would jump-start the flagging job market, a theme which is likely to dominate Washington this week with Barack Obama due to outline his own plans in an address to Congress on Thursday.
Palin's ideas include cutting taxes on corporations, allowing more drilling for oil, repealing Obama's healthcare reforms and reducing the national debt. "This" she said, "is how we create millions of high-paying jobs... Barack Obama promised to cut the deficit in half. Instead he turned around and tripled it.”
She added: “Folks, the truth is Barack Obama is adrift with no plan because his fundamental transformation is at odds with everything that made this country great. It doesn't make sense. He doesn't make sense.”