Sarah Palin may be keeping in the public eye, but behind the scenes she isn't keeping up with her rivals when it comes to laying the groundwork for a potential 2012 presidential run: Palin has largely avoided recruiting the fundraisers that have traditionally been necessary for a serious run at the White House.
That isn't to say she hasn't stayed involved in politics: Palin last week John McCain, and she has continued to weigh in on issues on her Facebook page. She has also of vulnerable Democrats her political action committee is looking to defeat in November and made regular appearances as a contributor on Fox News.
But while potential GOP primary rivals Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty work behind the scenes to garner institutional support from within the Republican Party, Palin has opted to focus largely on other affairs, including her planned television show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska."(She is also hosting a Fox News special Thursday night called "Real American Stories."
Romney is currently on what amounts to a sort of warm-up presidential run, selling his new book at appearances around the country. The latest stop: Iowa, traditionally the first state on the primary and caucus calendar, where he hosted a fundraiser for the state Republican Party and met with the state GOP chairman.
Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, has been on the road more than one of every three days during the state's latest legislative session, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Most of the trips have been for political purposes, including fundraising and speeches criticizing the Obama administration.
Palin, by contrast, has largely opted to give paid speeches and has sought the mantle of the Tea Party movement, with which the GOP continues to have an uneasy relationship. She made news Tuesday when a group demanded to know how much she was being paid for a planned speech at California State University.
Palin's inner circle remains small and notably devoid of representatives of establishment Washington Republicanism, with the exception of Fred Malek, who was the finance chairman of John McCain's 2008 campaign. Her apparent new press contact, Doug McMarlin, is a partner at a consulting firm based in Ohio who is not as plugged into the Washington media scene as the communications directors for Romney and Pawlenty.
This isn't to say the Palin isn't planning a run -- or even, in an unconventional way, positioning herself for one, potentially on the backs of the Tea Party protesters who have been the most energized segment of the American electorate for the past year.
But at this point she has very little institutional support among Republicans, and that may not bode well for a run at the White House. In 2000, John McCain ran for the White House as a GOP outsider and was ultimately defeated by the establishment candidate, George W. Bush. When he decided to run in 2008, McCain determined that he could not win without winning over the establishment -- and he promptly set out to do so.
As the race for the Republican 2012 presidential nomination heats up, keep an eye on Palin to see whether she makes the same calculation.