Sarah Palin Visits Ames, Iowa

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As presidential candidates mingle with voters at the state fair this weekend, the former Alaska governor joins them. Is it a sign she'll run in 2012?

Sarah Palin in Ames - AP Photo:Charlie Neibergall - banner.jpg

AMES, IOWA -- 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."

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."

Image credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP

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Beth Reinhard is a political correspondent for National Journal.

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