Is Sarah Palin sending mixed messages in her Newsweek article?

Sarah Palin's decidedly unpresidential pose on the cover of Newsweek suggests that she has decided not to run, even as she tells the magazine, 'I do believe that I can win.'

Andrea Melendez/The Des Moines Register/AP
Sarah Palin shakes hands with a few people before entering the Pella Opera House for the premiere of 'The Undefeated,' in Pella, Iowa on June 28. In a Newsweek interview, the former governor of Alaska says she believes she can win a national election.

Just when you thought Sarah Palin was fading from view, boom, she’s back. On the cover of Newsweek. Looking distinctly unpresidential in a gray hoodie that says “Edge Fitness,” hands on hips, hair blown back.

In a Newsweek interview, the former governor of Alaska says she believes: that she can win a national election, that the field of GOP hopefuls should be bigger, and that she still has months to decide if she wants to enter. So what will she do? “I’m still thinking about it,” she told Peter J. Boyer.

“I’m not so egotistical as to believe that it has to be me, or it can only be me, to turn things around,” Palin said. “But I do believe that I can win.”

Palin has a ready-made reason not to run – her family. Three of her children are still at home, including three-year-old Trig, who has special needs.

Says Palin: “If it came down to the family just saying, ‘Please, Mom, don’t do this,’ then that would be the deal-killer for me, because your family’s gotta be in it with you.”

We already knew all of that. What’s striking about the Newsweek feature is the photographs – not just the cover, but the two-page inside shot of Palin standing in a field of flowers, hair down, wearing a pink hoodie, hands in the pockets of loose-fitting work pants. It’s the Garden of Sarah.

Maybe the photos are Palin’s way of saying, “I’m not running.” Time was when a politically ambitious woman would agree to be photographed only looking “dressed for success” – usually in a suit, à la Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Newsweek cover earlier this year. Or the way Palin usually dresses on Fox News. But in this latest iteration, the vibe is more “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” than “West Wing.”

It all reinforces two other things we already knew about her: She is anything but conventional, and she knows how to keep the media interested. But what about the voters?

Palin launched a “One Nation” bus tour up the East Coast on Memorial Day, and then, less than a month later, suspended it as abruptly as it began. Though most polls show her at about 10 percent among GOP voters, some of her fans are starting to wonder if she’ll ever decide. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who leads the House Tea Party Caucus, has caught fire among conservatives. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another tea party favorite, says he’ll decide whether to run in a matter of weeks.

If Palin decides in several months that she wants in, will the money and top-tier campaign talent be there? Maybe that’s not the right question. Many Republican operatives assume she’s not running, and believe that with each public act, she’s burnishing her image as an icon and a kingmaker – not a candidate. Maybe the question is, when Palin announces she’s not running, how will she keep us interested?

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