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The clock is ticking for Sarah Palin, and her time is almost up.
“I think the window for Palin is closed, and every second that ticks off the clock things get more and more difficult for her,” said Craig Robinson, a former state party political director who runs the Iowa Republican website.
“People are really ready to say this is our field of candidates, these are the people we have to choose from,” he said. “They are growing frustrated with Sarah Palin’s game of peekaboo.”
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has kept fans guessing for months about her intentions. During a surprise visit to the Iowa state fair last month, she promised to announce by the end of September whether she would get in the race.
On another visit to Iowa last weekend, she told reporters she was happy with the field of Republican candidates and quickly added: “I always think there is room for more.”
But with the first nominating contest in Iowa less than five months away, little time is left to organize a national campaign, hire a staff and raise the money to compete.
While Palin supporters have argued her political rock star status and ability to draw a crowd made her immune to many of those pressures, Perry’s candidacy might have robbed her of a rationale for a bid.
The once unsettled battle for the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012 has taken shape with last month’s entry of Perry, the Texas governor who has roared to the top of the polls with strong conservative support.
Perry zoomed past Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, by appealing to the same coalition of social, religious and Tea Party fiscal conservatives that Palin would target if she gets in the race.
“Now that Perry and Romney have begun to draw the battle lines between them, I don’t think there is any room for Palin in the campaign,” said Republican strategist Rich Galen. “She’s still a big personality, but she’s not a potential candidate.”
Perry also has shoved aside Representative Michele Bachmann, who is popular with Tea Party followers and social conservatives but has faded since she won Iowa’s straw poll last month on the same day Perry launched his bid.
For months, Palin had led the list of potential candidates being goaded into the race by Republican activists dissatisfied with the field.
But an Associated Press/GfK poll in late August, after Perry’s entry, showed nearly two-thirds of Republican voters were now satisfied with their choices in the race — up from just more than half in mid-June.
Most of the other potential serious late entries, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Representative Paul Ryan, have ruled out bids.
That leaves Palin’s decision as the last big unanswered question in the Republican field.
“Perry filled a void in the race for a red-state governor who could campaign as a conservative. I don’t think there is a void that Palin fills,” Robinson said.