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Like it or not, the will-she-or-won't-she whispers about whether Sarah Palin will throw her hat in the ring for a 2012 presidential bid won't end until she states verbatim, "I'm not running." Until then, even the slightest suspicions of her political ambitions will set off speculation. One of the larger such hints is her recent decision to be the keynote speaker at the Iowa Republican Party's Ronald Reagan Dinner. Not only because Iowa plays a unique role in kick-starting the presidential primaries, but because--according to recent polls--Palin clearly needs to bolster her image and credibility in order to have a shot at becoming the Republican nominee. Here's what pundits are saying about her latest turn in Iowa:

  • It's Her First Big 2012 Move predicts Scott Conroy at Real Clear Politics. While the former Alaska governor has previously avoided high-profile visits to early voting states, she clearly intends to send a message at the dinner. It also shows that she intends to prove to Iowa Republicans that she is willing to do the "grunt work" in order to win over the "famously difficult to impress voters in Iowa's 99 counties." Her Iowa visit will be the first to that state since her book tour last year, Conroy notes.

  • And It Helps Her Sell Books  notes Mary Lu Carnevale at The Wall Street Journal. The move will certainly help fuel "fan speculation" about her presidential prospects, but it also helps her in the short term: "As the promo on Palin’s Facebook page reminds us, she has a new one coming out in November."

  • No Politician Goes to Iowa by Accident, yet The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza isn't ready to declare that she is angling for a 2012 run. As a first step, the speech starts down that road but "it's clear that Palin hasn't engaged in much outreach to the key activists and operatives in the Hawkeye State who traditionally help aspiring national candidates begin to build their Iowa organizations years in advance of the actual caucus vote." He concludes that "there's more smoke than fire" with her potential Iowa prospects and the frenzy of coverage doesn't mean that she's doing anything purposeful to build an efficient campaign machine.

  • Cleverly Keeping Her Options Open, writes Mark Halperin at Time magazine. While she had an outstanding invitation to speak at the dinner, it was only a few weeks ago that her aides worked out the logistics for her to speak. He writes: "A boffo performance at this dinner would be a great placeholder for her with the Hawkeye State's party faithful for a good, long time. The biggest question now: Does she come prepared with a dynamic-changing, paradigm-shifting stemwinder or does she just give her latest stump speech?"

  • It's a Large Uphill Climb for Palin, who's trending in the middle-of-the-pack among GOP 2012 hopefuls in the latest round of polling, concludes Dave Cook at The Christian Science Monitor. And according to a caucus poll, she also has very high unfavorability ratings, "the worst of the potential candidates in the survey," notes Cook.

  • She Lacks Connections in the State that other Republican candidates, like Mike Huckabee, have been so dutifully assembling, writes Tom Beaumont at The Des Moines Register. But this is a important event to be visible at: "In the dinner’s nine years, it has drawn national party stars and up-and-coming figures," including Mitt Romney in 2004 and Bill Frist a year later. Palin will have to work from the ground up to "build goodwill and relationships with influential activists" said state Republican officials quoted in the article.

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