Palin event on Labor Day weekend not a campaign launch?; Update: Rasmussen poll shows Palin losing to Obama by 17 points; Update: "Major announcement"?

After Sarah Palin showed up in Iowa the day before the Ames straw poll and announced a Labor Day event in Indianola, speculation arose again that the former Vice Presidential nominee would throw her hat into the ring for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.  According to Real Clear Politics and their “sources close to Palin,” her supporters will have to wait longer to find out whether Palin will get into the race:

Speculation that Palin might use the Labor Day weekend event to declare her candidacy has ramped up on cable news and the conservative blogosphere, but RCP has learned from sources close Palin that an official announcement is unlikely at that time.

Still, Palin’s speech is expected to offer more clues about whether she will jump into the race sometime in September, as some of her public comments and behind-the-scenes actions over the past several months have suggested is possible. And a core group of self-appointed volunteer organizers hope that the Indianola shindig will be one of the best-attended events of the presidential campaign season to date.

Instead of a campaign launch, RCP reports that it may be more of a campaign test event:

Peter Singleton, a California attorney who leads the Iowa branch of the all-volunteer group Organize4Palin, told conservative radio host Tammy Bruce on Saturday that in addition to Palin’s speech, the three-hour midday rally would include a diverse undercard of speakers, music and video interludes, and even a group lesson on precinct organizing.

The event will pose a significant test for Singleton and the rest of the all-volunteer army of Palin devotees who have for months been quietly paving the way for a presidential run that would be fueled by a dedicated core of political novices.

At the moment, that seems to be the only evidence that Palin’s running at all — the proliferation of volunteer auxiliaries working to organize the event.  That will eventually pose a problem for an entry into the campaign, though, which is that the other campaigns will have staffed up in Iowa and elsewhere.  Assuming Palin does jump into the race, she will find the pickings slim for experienced staffers and organizers.  Of all the potential candidates who have yet to declare, Palin has the best odds of overcoming that handicap due to her near-universal name recognition, but in Iowa, organization and retail politics are the key to victory.

That raises another question about the event itself.  Are Iowans excited about it?  Not as much as outsiders, it seems at the moment:

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the crowd that will descend on the site — which recently played host to the National Balloon Classic — will include a sizable contingent of out-of-staters. The Texas branch of Organize4palin, for example, is organizing a bus trip to make the more than 11-hour drive from Dallas to Indianola.

Politicians don’t win the Iowa caucus with showy, one-off events.  They have to conduct the retail politicking that the declared candidates are currently conducting all across the state.  That means going to small events as well as large ones, traveling through all of the small towns and shaking hands, and asking voters now to caucus for them in 2012.  And that takes a network of organization for the follow-up visits and phone calls, turnout support, and so on.

Palin would need to win Iowa to have a path to the nomination (she’s not the only one, either; so would Bachmann).  She’s unlikely to do well in New Hampshire or Michigan against Romney, and a southern governor like Perry will have the advantage in South Carolina and Florida.  Yet even at this late date, Palin appears to have no real organization in the field in Iowa, and without a campaign in place, no major fundraisers either.  If the Labor Day event doesn’t feature Palin announcing a presidential run and a serious approach to campaigning in Iowa, she will start running out of time to compete properly in the state she will have to win in the caucus next winter.

Update: Maybe this Rasmussen poll shows why Palin is remaining ambiguous (via Allahpundit and the headlines):

If Election Day was right now, President Obama would defeat the former Alaska governor 50% to 33%, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the first time that the president has risen out of the 40s in hypothetical matchups with any of the major GOP presidential hopefuls. Fifteen percent (15%) prefer some other candidate, and two percent (2%) are undecided.  …

Last month, Obama posted a 47% to 38% lead over Palin, the GOP’s unsuccessful vice presidential candidate in 2008.

Palin earns support from 62% of Republicans, while 88% of Democrats back the president. Voters not affiliated with either party prefer Obama by a 51% to 30% margin.

The internals of the poll make a Palin challenge to Obama look daunting indeed.  She loses young voters by a whopping 12/64 and thirtysomethings 30/50.  All ethnic demos go to Obama, including a 43/38 edge among white voters.  In a two-way race with Palin, 20% of self-identified conservatives go to Obama, and another 19% are undecided.  Palin loses every income demographic as well.

Update II: According to Fox News, the rally will feature “a major announcement”:

Charlie Gruschow, co-founder of event host Tea Party of America, told he doesn’t know what Palin will do at the rally, but that “all we’re being told is that she’s going to make a major announcement.”

Tea Party of America has already started running radio ads in Iowa promoting the event. And the group’s website has a poll asking readers not if but “when” Palin will announce her candidacy.