In spite of the continued interest in Palin's political future, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate finished fifth in a National Journal poll that asked 109 party leaders, political professionals and pundits who is most likely to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Palin tied with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for fifth place, while former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney came in first.
Palin has been able to leverage her outsider status to win the loyal support of self-described tea partiers, CBS News' Charles Cooper notes. But at this point, he says, "they need her more than she needs them."
While Palin is attending a tea party convention next year, she is also planning to speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, along with mainstream Republican favorites like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
"This is a great opportunity to listen and speak to those who are helping to set the direction of our party," Palin said in a press release.
As Palin moves to expand her support among the party establishment, GOP leaders would be wise to tread lightly around her in spite of their skepticism, political blogger Nate Silver writes.
"There's going to come a time, probably in July 2011 or so, where the knives are really drawn on Palin and Republican pundits, strategists and candidates start saying in public some of the things they've been thinking in private," Silver says. "And that in all likelihood will play very well for her."