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Time "running out" on Palin to opt in or out

Sarah Palin was back in the vital caucus state of Iowa Saturday, delivering what her representatives were calling a major policy speech. Then, she was heading for another state important in the early presidential going, New Hampshire.

Palin's latest destinations set tongues wagging yet again about whether she's going to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

At the moment, the odds appear to be 50/50, New York Times national political correspondent Jeff Zeleny told "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Russ Mitchell.

"When she arrived in a town outside of Des Moines last night to see some supporters," Zeleny said, "it sure looked like she was maybe inching closer to a decision on this.

"I asked her if she's happy with the field of candidates and she said she is, but she said there's always room for more, for better discussion, better discourse.

"I don't think we're going to see an announcement from her over this Labor Day weekend, but she's acknowledged herself that September is a critical month for her to make a decision. Some of her aides are sort of keeping a team in-waiting, if she gives that go-ahead signal. But right now, I think the only (one) who knows ... is Sarah Palin herself, and she's not saying. ... But she knows that time is about running out here. She can't keep pulling the string much longer."

Zeleny says, should Palin jump in, "would have to do this with a grass-roots effort. She would have to use some of these supporters who really have been coming from across the country here to Iowa to see her this weekend. I talked to a woman who drove from Mobile, Ala. to see her, a woman who flew from California. She would have to rely on that group.

"But, that's not the same as having a real campaign organization. You have to get people organized and you have to have a paid staff in early voting states. So, she definitely would start at a major deficit if she would decide to run, but we're not sure she's going to. She could have an influence on the race from the outside, as we've seen."

If Palin gets in, he says, "The person who would have the most to lose is (Minn. Rep.) Michelle Bachmann - she certainly occupies that space - and also Governor Rick Perry of Texas. He's trying to sort of bridge the gap between the party establishment and these Tea Party conservatives and evangelical Christians. Sarah Palin speaks to a lot of those. (Former Mass. Gov.) Mitt Romney would (like it) just fine if Sarah Palin got into the race, because she would instantly compete with Governor Perry, but we'll certainly just have to see if she does that. I think it's 50/50 at this point."

Perry could well be the center of attention at the upcoming GOP debate, Zeleny observed.

"It's a very important debate for him," Zeleny said. "We've seen how important these debates are so far. This is really going to be his first time introduction to a national audience. He's really only been speaking so far to friendly audiences, Republican audiences and, boy, everyone on that stage is going to be gunning for him. ... A lot of the candidates, like Michelle Bachmann, who has been crowded out of this field a little bit.

"So, he is going to have to prove that he can perform on a national stage. He's a very good retail politician. We've certainly seen that. But this is a very big moment for him. And he's been practicing. His advisers tell me he's been doing mock debates and he's really been getting ready for this."