What does Sarah Palin want?
I would say three things at this point.
To back Newt Gingrich without formally endorsing him.
To reclaim her spot as a conservative force in the Republican Party.
To stay in the public eye.
Toward that end, the former Alaska governor will be delivering the keynote address Saturday at CPAC, the conservative conclave that always makes news.
For most of last year, as she continued to indulge the fiction that she might run for president, Palin attracted media attention like a magnet. Every Facebook post or bus tour was big news.
It was inevitable that her role would recede once the GOP coalesced around a standard-bearer. But rather than get on the Romney bandwagon, Palin has been backing Newt without quite saying so (while her husband Todd has flat-out endorsed Gingrich).
Here is Palin with Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, agreeing there’s no “glowing enthusiasm” for the Republican field: “I believe a lot of that is in part the idea that it’s a forgone conclusion that Mitt Romney will be the GOP pick. He certainly has the establishment support and much of the media support.” (And we know what Palin thinks of the MSM.) She also took a swipe at Romney’s $40 million in “attack ads.”
Here’s her non-endorsement when asked about Newt vs. Obama: “I think that Newt Gingrich would be the toughest debater, debating ideas and solutions, and his experience as one who had learned through the Reagan revolution what true conservatism is, and how it is that with foreign policy we need to provide that peace through strength in our world, and how it is that we need to balance budgets and we need to slash budgets because we are going bankrupt, all those things that Newt has talked about in his campaign.” The president, she said, “would really fear having to debate Newt Gingrich.” (Atlhough Romney didn’t seem very fearful in those Florida debates.)
I have the sense that Palin would really like to unload on Mitt and campaign for Newt. Ideologically and stylistically, Gingrich is far closer to her idea of an aggressively conservative nominee. But Palin may be hedging her bets because she may have to line up behind Romney against Obama in the fall—that is, if she sees herself having a future in the Republican Party and not just as a Fox News pundit.