Perry’s not the only one who knows how to leverage the media’s focus on Ames into some extra buzz for their own maybe-candidacy. Another X factor to liven up the straw poll:

After a nearly three-month hiatus, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is planning to crash the presidential party once again with a heartland-themed re-launch of her “One Nation” bus tour this week in Iowa, according to a Palin fundraising email obtained by CNN.

Palin is bringing her Constitution-themed bus to the Iowa State Fair, just 30 miles south of where the Republican presidential field will take the stage on Thursday for a presidential debate in Ames.

It’s not yet clear which day the tour will begin, but her surprise arrival in Iowa will happen before the closely watched Ames straw poll. Palin is not on the straw poll ballot…

Palin’s re-emergence in Iowa just hours before the debate is a reminder that the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee intends to remain part of the presidential discussion as long as possible, despite being largely dismissed by party insiders.

The poll’s only three days away so the tour will have to begin tomorrow or Friday if she plans on being there beforehand. That’s the smart way to play it, too: If she showed up on Saturday and drew reporters away from the poll, it might antagonize easily-antagonizable Iowans. If she showed up next week she’d come off like an afterthought, especially if Bachmann wins on Saturday. Popping in now to remind people that she might still get in is the best way to short-circuit some of Bachmann’s buzz.

Reporter Mike Memoli asks a good question, though: “Is Palin more interested in trumping GOP candidates or Pres. Obama as he is set to begin his own bus tour in Iowa next week?” The One will be in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois next week and Palin’s expected to hit Missouri and Illinois after visiting Iowa. Drawing a contrast with Obama is smart insofar as it elevates her vis-a-vis the rest of the field; that’s been Romney’s strategy all along, of course, and Perry’s planning to adopt it himself next week when he holds an event in Iowa on Tuesday to coincide with Obama’s visit. That’s the most surprising thing about his rollout to me — as bold as Palin is in showing up at the state fair before Ames and running her own bus tour as a contrast with Obama’s, Perry’s being even bolder in trying to bigfoot Ames with his announcement and attacking The One with some sort of speech (presumably) while he’s in the state. Not a guy prone to half-measures, I guess.

Here’s the new ad released by Sarah PAC in connection with the tour. Sure looks like a campaign spot. Exit quotation from Reuters, which has a piece out today gauging Perry’s support among the grassroots: “Tea Party activists interviewed by Reuters voiced most enthusiasm for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has been coy as to whether she will run. They were also curious about Perry, but said they knew less about him.”