DES MOINES, Iowa — Sarah Palin stoked speculation anew Friday of a future presidential run, inserting herself into the 2012 conversation by visiting in Iowa during an important week in the GOP race — and just as Texas Gov. Rick Perry becomes a candidate.
"There is still plenty of room for a common sense conservative," the former Alaska governor insisted to a crush of reporters as she inspected cattle with her family at the Iowa State Fair.
Characteristically, she played coy about her plans and sent mixed messages.
Palin said she hasn't decided whether she would run for president, but suggested she was leaning toward a bid, adding: "When we're ready to announce ... you won't be able to miss the announcement."
Asked about Perry, she said: "He's a great guy and I look forward to see him in those debates." But she rebuffed questions about whether that meant she'd be standing on stage with him.
And when pressed about her future plans, Palin said a trip home and a visit to the Alaska state fair were in order.
"Moose season is starting up in Alaska soon so we'll go back home and moose hunt," she said, adding: "And then, we'll come back out on the road, we hope."
As she shuffled through cattle pens and livestock buildings in a casual T-shirt and black slacks, Palin posed for pictures with well-wishers and fans. She scrawled her autograph on hats and fair programs, asked supporters what they did for a living and talked about becoming a grandmother.
Nearby, onlookers jumped onto fences and craned to get a glimpse of the Palins amid the jostling throng of journalists circling her. It was a marked changfe from the declared candidates who visited the fair and met with voters without such a buzz.
Officially, Palin, the GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee who resigned the Alaska governorship midterm in 2009, was in Iowa as the Midwestern swing of a "One Nation" bus tour that she began in the spring on the East Coast. She called it a family vacation but her political action committee paid for the trip. Part of it included a visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire — the same day GOP front-runner Mitt Romney formally entered the race.
This time, her visit to the state that leads off the GOP nominating contests was sandwiched between a Thursday night debate and Saturday's Iowa straw poll in which her would-be rivals are participating. She said she wasn't planning to stick around for the results of the test vote that could indicate which candidate has the strongest organization in the leadoff caucus state.
"No, no, I don't want to step on anybody's feet during that," Palin said, even as she seemingly did just that.
She also differed with Rep. Michele Bachmann's answer to a question about women being submissive to their husbands.
Bachmann was asked about previous comments she had made that she studied tax law because husband, Marcus, suggested it, and cited a Bible verse requiring wives to submit to husbands. On Thursday, Bachmann, the only woman currently in the Republican presidential field, said she interprets "submission" to mean "respect."
A day later, Palin said: "That's her opinion, you know, is that her submission to her husband means respecting her husband. I respect my husband, too."
But Palin added: "I can't imagine my husband ever telling me what to do, really. He never has told me what to do when it comes to a political step. And I appreciate that. I respect you for that, Todd."
A Bachmann spokeswoman did not have immediate comment.