Sen. Sarah Palin? Already, she and incumbent Mark Begich are circling.

Sarah Palin has expressed only tepid interest in running for the US Senate – and it's by no means assured Alaskans would even have her. But incumbent Sen. Mark Begich felt compelled to weigh in, and Palin to counterpunch. Does it mainly serve to boost Sarah Palin Inc.?

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin addresses the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington June 15.

Isn’t it aerial wolf hunting season somewhere? Doesn’t Sarah Palin have something to do this summer, say, in the wilds of her home state, rather than float fresh interest in a 2014 bid for US Senate?

“I’ve considered it, because people have requested me considering it,” she told conservative radio host Sean Hannity earlier this week. “But I’m still waiting to see what the lineup will be and hoping that … there will be some new blood, new energy, not just kind of picking from the same old politicians in the state.”

Ms. Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a former Alaska governor, added: “I, along with anybody, would have to say that I would do whatever I could to help. And, you know, if that was part of that help, then it would have to be considered.”

Hey, Lorne Michaels, don’t summon Tina Fey back to "Saturday Night Live" just yet. That was perhaps about the most tepid declaration of interest in a campaign we’ve heard of late. Not to mention the undeniable fact that Palin abandoned her last elected office, the governorship, halfway through her term. Lawmaking was not her thing. She prefers sipping Big Gulps (as a sign of her distaste for those officials who are working to limit the public’s soda consumption) and ragging on liberals, for cash. She has, of course, returned to the Fox News Channel as an on-air commentator.

“Giving up her current lucrative career may be hard given a less than certain outcome in the race,” Terry Nelson, a veteran Republican operative who has done work in Alaska, told the Washington Post. “And a losing campaign won’t help her.”

Sure, it’s not unthinkable that Palin would run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, who is up for reelection next year. She is still a draw among conservatives, but her national popularity seems to trump residual affection for her in Alaska. So far the polls don’t show a home-state public clamoring to have Palin on the ballot.

One survey – conducted in May by Harper Polling, a GOP shop, for the Tea Party Leadership Fund – indicates that she would narrowly lead the field of possible Republican candidates. Palin would take 32 percent of the primary vote, followed by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell at 30 percent, and Joe Miller, the tea party-backed Republican nominee in 2010, with 24 percent.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted earlier this year by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling concludes that Senator Begich would fare well in a general election against Palin, besting her by 16 points, 54 to 38 percent.

For his part, Begich isn’t taking lightly Palin’s coy offer to run if she believes she’s needed. In an interview with Politico on Wednesday, he repeatedly questioned whether she lives in Alaska.

"I don't know if she's a resident," Begich said. "She's been away from Alaska a lot and has probably lost touch with what's going on. She should go to my webpage. Most Alaskans I see on a pretty regular basis, but I haven't seen her for a long time.”

(Palin is still registered to vote in Wasilla, where she served as mayor, Politico notes.)

Begich also suggested that he won’t take Palin too seriously unless she emerges from what’s expected to be a crowded primary. “A Republican primary in Alaska? She may not survive,” he said.

But Palin’s star power still shines enough – and her potential to raise money looms large enough – for Begich to weigh in on her potential candidacy. Palin pushed back on Facebook Thursday, criticizing Begich for being in President Obama’s pocket and for voting with “ultra-liberal Senators Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid approximately 90 percent of the time.” He voted, she said, “FOR Obamacare, FOR massive tax increases, FOR carbon taxes which could cost Alaskans 21,000 jobs, AGAINST pro-life legislation, and there’s so much more.”

“Really, Mark? Really?” Palin wrote. “Margaret Thatcher used to say, ‘I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.’ So, thank you, Mark Begich, for making me and others exceptionally cheery today!”

It’s probably too early yet to be drawn in by Palin’s fighting language – or her seeming good cheer at the prospect of Begich’s engagement. Fighting, after all, is a Palin trademark, and she’s not necessarily interested in sparring from behind a desk in a storied congressional chamber. Palin is, first and foremost, a moneymaking machine. She is Sarah Palin Inc., and, frankly, her brand isn’t what it was for a fleeting moment in 2008. As Begich bites and the social network sniping commences, the spotlight grows brighter around the former pol.

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