Palin kick-starts bus tour on back of motorcycle

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, May 29 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Many of Palin's potential rivals were scheduled to visit New Hampshire in the coming week, including another tea party favorite: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was expected to make formal his bid during a noon barbecue on Thursday. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was set to speak at a fundraiser for the state GOP. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — who also rides motorcycles — is spending the weekend working through the state's rural North Country.

And former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty visited New Hampshire last week, just days after he formally declared himself a candidate while in Iowa. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also campaigned in a state that is emerging as a linchpin for many of the campaigns already rolling.

Yet others could still enter the race. Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday hinted he could start campaigning for a job he once ruled out. Former New York Gov. George Pataki is running television ads in New Hampshire and speaking out against Obama. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has insisted he's not running; his supporters don't believe him.

Palin, who abruptly resigned the Alaska governor's office before completing her first term, has worked to sustain a national profile. She's a contributor to Fox News Channel, a best-selling author and a reality television star. She has a loyal following among conservatives and tea-party activists, but she remains a divisive figure among the wider public. Polls show more people have an unfavorable opinion of her than not.

In recent weeks Palin has made changes to her insular circle of advisers. She also authorized a feature-length film about her political rise and her supporters are putting together a campaign-in-waiting in Iowa.

Should she run, she'd have to leave Fox's lucrative payroll. Should she come up short of the nomination, she'd lose some of her cachet. And Sunday proved she can create buzz without being a candidate.

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