McManus: Palin the procrastinator

It's time for her to decide: Is she in or out?

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Sarah Palin is giving indecision a bad name.

Not only can't she decide whether to run for president, this week she even waffled over whether to keep a date to speak at a "tea party" rally in Iowa on Sunday, a Sarah-palooza her devotees have been organizing for weeks.

Every other serious Republican presidential hopeful has already decided, one way or the other. Mitt Romney's been running for years. Rick Perry's been running for only three weeks, but he spent months laying the groundwork. Only Palin continues to dither, even though she says she thinks the nation would benefit from having more candidates.

"The more the merrier," she said last month when it became clear that Perry was in. "The more ideas that are debated out there, the better for the electorate. You all deserve good choices in this 2012 election."

But Palin? The former Alaska governor surfaces without warning every month or so, like the Loch Ness monster, to let her supporters know she still exists. She insists that she has what it takes to run for president — "that fire in the belly" — and that she believes she could win.

"That passion is real, it's sincere, because I love this country," she told Fox News last month.

But she never quite says yes or no.

"I'm still considering it," she said.

What's holding her back? "The impact on family," she said.

And can a decision wait much longer?

"August and September," she promised last month. "You do have to start laying out a plan if you are to be one to throw your hat in the ring."

There are plenty of people who want Palin to run.

She still places third in most national polls of Republican voters, behind Perry and Romney, and that might rise if she actually declared.

She has thousands of devoted fans who have organized grass-roots committees, set up websites and spent hours messaging one another in excitement after every hint of interest from their heroine.

There's Romney, who wouldn't mind seeing the hard-core tea party vote split three ways among Palin, Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

There are the moguls who own the nation's television news channels; they know the endless photogenic family drama of Sarah Palin is good for their ratings.

And there are reporters like me, who simply yearn to see how Palin would do in the scrum of a genuine GOP debate instead of the carefully chosen, friendly audiences she sticks to now.

But after the last few weeks, all of us — love-struck fans and cranky cynics alike — are losing hope.

By any rational interpretation of her behavior, Republican strategists say, Palin doesn't appear to intend to run, because she hasn't done any of the quiet but serious preparatory work that a potential candidate normally undertakes.

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