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Does Sarah Palin's bus tour mean she's serious about running?

The intensity of feeling about Sarah Palin would make her an atypical presidential candidate. That worries some conservatives, and it leaves some Democrats hoping she'll run.

By Staff writer / June 5, 2011

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin poses for photos with a school group visiting the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, Thursday, June 2, 2011.

Steven Senne/AP

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As Sarah Palin wound down her bus tour to historic sites in the Northeast, she felt the need to set the record straight on a couple of things.

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For one, she wasn’t intentionally interfering with Mitt Romney’s official declaration, even if her entourage happened to find itself just down the road in New Hampshire. She apologized about that.

And two, she was right when she said Paul Revere was warning the British not to disarm those patriotic colonialists, no matter what historians said about Revere avoiding the British as he rode to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that they might be arrested.

But bus tour kerfuffles aside, the question remains: Is Palin serious about running, albeit in highly unconventional fashion, or is this all merely a way to tout her highly lucrative brand … or both?

Winning the presidency is a two-step process. Here the steps are very different, and this explains why Palin remains in the race whether or not she ever declares her candidacy.

Among the general public, her favorability ratings range from no more than 36 percent to as low as 20 percent, according to recent polls.

But among Republicans – that is to say, those who will pick their party’s candidate – she does much, much better: from 55 percent to as high as 68 percent view her favorably.

Another set of numbers could be a plus or a minus for Palin, depending on one’s point of view.

Intensity of support

Gallup measures “intensity” of feeling about potential candidates. Among Republicans it polled, Gallup found that 22 percent have a strongly favorable opinion of Palin, compared to 17 percent for Romney. At the same time, however, 8 percent of Republicans surveyed have a strongly unfavorable opinion of Palin, compared to just 3 percent for Romney.

“Palin, in short, stirs up the waters and creates more controversy,” says Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport. “Romney’s profile is quite positive but not as intense as Palin’s.”

At the moment, Palin is the 400-pound Mama Grizzly in the race – especially for Romney, the generally presumed front-runner.

With both of them in a theoretical nomination contest, they’re neck-and-neck among Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents (17 percent for Romney, 15 percent for Palin) with the rest of the hopefuls lined up well behind in single digits.

But if Palin were to say that she won’t run, Romney rises to 19 percent with nobody else closer than 7 percentage points behind.

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