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The end is near, friends. Though several deadlines have been floated -- sometime in September is the most common -- "Is Sarah Palin running for president?" stops being a legit question on October 31. That's because, as Politico's Molly Ball reports, Halloween is the date by which candidates must file to be on the ballot in the Florida primary. South Carolina's deadline is the next day; New Hampshire's is a little more than two weeks later. Palin has shown that she can break a lot of old political rules -- like how to engage voters and the press -- but she can't wing it when it comes to complying with state election laws.

In 1992, Bill Clinton didn't get into the race until late October. Democratic lawyer Matt Seyfang helped Clinton's campaign figure out the ballot rules, and he's done so for four other presidential campaigns. Seyfang tells Ball, "It isn't inconceivable that somebody could get into the race as late as the first or second week in October and manage to get it all done." Post-October, though, Seyfang says it's impossible. Likewise, Republican election lawyer Jason Torchinsky explained, "Regardless of how you want to run your campaign, if you have not complied with state ballot requirements, you can’t be on the ballot, and if you’re not on the ballot, you can’t get delegates allocated to you."
 
So what is Palin thinking? On Thursday, she posted a statement on Facebook, but unlike typical Palin posts -- complaints about the media, reminders to honor the troopspolitical attacks on Democrats -- it was a serious four-point plan on Libya. Palin cautioned against premature celebration, putting too much trust in the rebels, and overextending the military by putting troops on the ground. It sounds presidential -- and like what many Republican consultants urged her to do after the 2008 election: study up on foreign policy.
 
Palin's planning a big speech in Iowa September 3, and on the way, she'll stop at a Tea Party rally in Cedar Rapids. That, too, sounds more presidential. But then again, organizers have learned not to count on her. Palin told planner Sal Russo that she'd be there, but "She's known for her spontaneity," he politely explains to The Souix City Journal's James Q. Lynch.
 
And that's why a last-minute presidential scramble it might be too late. The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier asks, "Has Sarah Palin exhausted the patience of her supporters?" According to a new Pew poll, the answer is yes. Pew finds that 41 percent of Republican voters say there's no chance they'd vote for Palin. That makes a Republican primary victory look very unlikely.

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