Palin's absence from convention may expose rift

Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pauses while announcing he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, in North Charleston, S.C.
AP Photo/David Goldman
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin waves during a Tea Party Express rally in Manchester, N.H.
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This article originally appeared on RealClearPolitics.

If one of Mitt Romney's goals in choosing a running mate was to mine the same mother lode of conservative excitement that John McCain tapped by picking Sarah Palin four years ago, there's one additional dilemma for Romney to address: Palin is still around.

A day after Romney unveiled House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential pick, Palin suggested in a statement posted by her Fox News colleague Greta Van Susteren that she would not speak at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

"This year is a good opportunity for other voices to speak at the convention and I'm excited to hear them," Palin said in the statement, which was widely interpreted to signal that hers would not be among those voices.

Palin's apparent decision to steer clear of this year's convention came almost four years after she took the 2008 presidential race by storm with her speech accepting the GOP vice-presidential nomination in St. Paul, Min. -- a performance that electrified the party faithful and received almost universal praise from previously skeptical pundits.

Within days, the McCain/Palin ticket had surged to the lead in the RCP Average before a series of public stumbles and the near-collapse of the nation's financial system led ultimately to the Republicans' defeat.

Though the differences between that vice-presidential rollout and his own are innumerable, Romney's selection of Ryan has likewise generated a surge of enthusiasm in the conservative base that had previously rallied to Romney largely by default.

According to Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul, the Republican campaign raised $3.5 million online in the 24 hours following Romney's selection of Ryan, and the GOP ticket was greeted over the weekend by the largest crowds of the former Massachusetts governor's candidacy, though the numbers have been less massive than the tens of thousands who regularly turned out for Palin's 2008 appearances.

Though she has faded from her once commanding perch on the national political scene, Palin's role in the Republican Party heading into the campaign's final stretch remains a consequential matter for the Romney team to address.

The former Alaska governor has demonstrated a continued ability to wield significant influence, particularly in Senate and House primary races, but her penchant for doing things her own way has left the lingering possibility that she could either boost the standard-bearer or become a thorn in his side.

For this reason, it was notable when she initially offered only a lukewarm reaction to Romney's selection of Ryan.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.