Sarah Palin can still be a show stopper without even taking the stage, and she proved that once again in Iowa this week at Steve King’s big conservative bash. The former Governor of Alaska is always a big ticket name to put on the bill, but since the subject at hand was the GOP 2016 primary, the media couldn’t resist asking her the obvious question. Are you thinking about running? The answer was custom made for a short press corps feeding frenzy, since it sort of sounded like a yes.

Politico listened to what Palin had to say and clearly wasn’t biting.

But this much was clear from her appearance here on the eve of the biggest GOP cattle call of the presidential season so far: She’s definitely interested in people thinking she’s interested.

Even if she’s not really that interested.

“Without putting any words in my mouth, you can absolutely say that I’m seriously interested,” said Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, in the lobby of the Marriott late Friday night. But in the same conversation, she appeared to downplay her interest, suggesting she is merely keeping her option open.

“It’s not a major story because 2016 really is still far off,” she said of the Palin-for-president talk. “I think it’s a major story because maybe you guys are bored,” referring to the mainstream media. (Surrounded by national reporters, she resisted referring to them as the “lamestream” media.)

Rick Moran watched the same thing, but seems to think that there is enough smoke here that a fire is possible.

Palin sounds like a candidate to me. And she’s teeing off on Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, implying that their establishmentarianism is no better than the status quo — a potent theme that will resonate with the conservative base.

She also implies that Bush/Romney aren’t strong enough to get in the trenches with Hillary and the Clinton machine to duke it out. She certainly describes herself when she says she thinks the GOP candidate should be “considered a bit avante garde.” In fact, the way she describes the ideal candidate is like she’s looking in a mirror…

Palin may have other reasons for running, including denying Romney and Bush a cakewalk to the nomination. Her favorability ratings may be a liability, but her name recognition is far better than any other conservative candidate. Her entrance in the race would be a wild card that could peel off support from both establishment and conservative candidates alike.

After Romney lost the last race, I wrote my proposal for a Grand Experiment where conservatives manage to wrest the nomination from the establishmentarians and put up a fire breathing conservative to settle the internal debate once and for all. Palin was on that short list, along with Ted Cruz. (At the time I included Peter King, but he’s fallen off the spectrum at this point and I’d reinstate Santorum in his place.) So does this mean that everyone on my list will actually be in the mix? Probably not.

A couple of playful comments at a big shindig are one thing, but personally there seem to be too many pieces missing from the underlying puzzle for me take this very seriously… at least yet. First, the tone of Palin’s responses wasn’t exactly decisive. You can absolutely say that I’m seriously interested. She also followed that up with, Who wouldn’t be interested? More to the point, though, was her observation about the media being “bored” and wanting something to talk about. (Absolutely true, by the way.) She said, It’s not a major story because 2016 really is still far off.

Palin is no political babe in the woods. 2016 not only isn’t far off in the universe of politics, it’s essentially here. The race has begun and the horses are jockeying for position. In only a few months, anybody who isn’t actively out there soaking up the donor pool with an established, multi-state team on the ground is going to be left far, far behind. What has Palin been doing? True, she has her own PAC and it’s raised some decent money, but nowhere near what you need for a presidential bid, and a lot of it has been going to help other conservative candidates.

I will agree with Rick Moran on one point, though. If she was in the race it would upset the apple cart like a literal elephant dropping on it. But the biggest loser would probably be Ted Cruz because his most likely supporters would also probably be the first ones pining for a return of Palin on the scene. (On the plus side, he’s probably be a shoe-in for the Veep nod in that case.)