Sarah Palin Launches Bus Tour Today

Updated 3:45 p.m.

Just a few weeks ago, it looked as if former Alaska governor Sarah Palin would shy away from a 2012 presidential bid. While other possible White House contenders were launching exploratory committees, hiring field staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire, and readying their official campaign announcements, we didn't hear much from the Republican Party's 2008 vice-presidential nominee.

Today, that will change. Palin launched her East-Coast bus tour, attending the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington D.C., an event that supports veterans and POW-MIAs. From there, she'll travel to "historical sites that were key to the formation, survival and growth of the United States of America," as her political spokesman phrased it. The tour is expected to include a stop in New Hampshire, and it looks like a sign that Palin is seriously considering a White House run in 2012.

In the June 2011 issue of The Atlantic, Senior Editor Joshua Green delved into Palin's record in Alaska, how she's seen very differently now than she was at the beginning of per career, and how her political future may have been different:

Palin seems to have been driven by a will to advance herself and by a virulent animus against anyone who tried to impede her. But this didn't prevent her from being an uncommonly effective governor, while she lasted. On the big issues, at least, she chose her enemies well, and left the state in better shape than most people, herself included, seem to realize or want to credit her for. It's odd that someone so preoccupied with her image hasn't gotten this across better. And it raises the question of what she could have achieved.

"The thing that strikes me again and again is that she was so single-minded when she got here," Gregg Erickson, a former senior state economist and co-founder of the Alaska Budget Report, an influential political newsletter, told me. "The problem with amateurs in politics is that they often lack that focus. She had it. She was terrible at running a staff, and given that, it's amazing she was successful. But on the issues she made the focus of her administration--the oil tax and the gas line--she had good staff, listened to them, and backed them up. She was a transformative governor, no question. If it hadn't been for her stunning ability to confuse personal interests and her role as governor, she could have gone on to be tremendously successful."

JOHN MCCAIN'S ADVISERS say he chose Palin because they believed that the race needed shaking up. But she must have appealed to him for reasons beyond her gender and vivacity. Palin was fresh from major, unexpected victories. She had challenged her own party's corruption, at grave risk to her career. For this, she was wildly popular. Surely, that brought back McCain's old battles against George W. Bush and the Republican establishment, and the glory they had won him.

But McCain and Palin didn't run as mavericks. Instead, they turned hard right. Palin's old colleagues were stunned. "The speech at the Republican convention that made her a star, that was just shocking," French told me. "She could have said, 'I'll do for the nation what I did for Alaska: I'll work with both sides and won't care where the ideas come from.' Her background supported that. Instead, they handed her a red-meat script she's been reading from ever since."

After the election, Palin returned to being governor, but she didn't last long. She says unwarranted ethics investigations are what prompted her to quit. Most Alaskans seem to think she left to get rich. But she also had lost her political base. Republicans had never liked her, Democrats felt betrayed, and everyone believed she was now fixated on the presidency. Today, only about 33 percent of Alaskans hold a favorable view of her. She's often referred to as "Sarah, Inc."--just the latest powerful entity seeking to exploit Alaska.

Read the full piece here.

Drop-down image credit: Reuters