PELLA, Iowa — Depending on who in her family is talking, Sarah Palin may have finally decided whether to run for president.
Palin maintained her will-she-or-won't-she tease Tuesday as she visited Iowa, the hotbed of presidential campaigning that will kick off voting for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination with precinct caucuses next winter.
Palin and her husband, Todd, attended the premiere of a new movie about her, "The Undefeated," at a historic theater in Pella, a town of about 10,000 southeast of Des Moines. Afterward, they attended a cookout hosted by the movie's producers for town folk.
As she traveled to Iowa — her first visit there this year — her eldest daughter told Fox News Tuesday that her mom has made up her mind about running and "definitely knows." However, Bristol Palin said, her mother's keeping the decision private for now. "Some things just need to stay in the family," she said.
The former Alaska governor brushed aside the statement as she arrived in Pella Tuesday evening.
"It's a tough decision, it's a big decision to decide whether to run for office or not. I'm still contemplating," she said. "I am still thinking about the decision and you know a lot goes into such a life-changing, relatively earth-shattering type of decision and still thinking about it."
She said she texted her daughter after hearing second hand about her TV interview.
"I said honey, 'What did you say this morning on some news program?'" said Palin, a Fox News contributor.
"She said, 'Oh, mom, you've got to watch the interview. You know how they take everything out of context.' I said you remember, Bristol, what we talk about on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat. . . . I don't know what she said, but (I'm) still thinking about it."
Either way, the Palin tease continued — helping create enormous buzz that might simply help her sell books and make money — or could help serve as an unconventional launching pad for a White House bid.
"I'll take her seriously as a presidential candidate when she takes Iowa seriously," said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party. "She hasn't rubbed elbows with Iowa activists."
While other candidates are starting to build statewide campaigns, Palin hasn't asked anyone here to work for her. She does have fans who are reaching out to activists and organizers, asking them to remain available just in case. They say they have not talked to her about their efforts.
"There are people traveling the state, organizing, keeping her option open....They're as organized as any campaign in the state," Robinson said. "It's not as easy as flipping a switch. But with how late the campaign is getting started, she's not that far behind."
On the tidy Pella street where the movie premiered, local storekeepers who weren't invited to the movie watched the hoopla with interest, but not necessarily enthusiasm for the star.
"I read her book. She's not afraid to say what she thinks. I like that," said Mary Elsloo. "But I don't think she'll make it."
"I'm not sure how far she can get," added Laura Vos.
"I'm not really a big fan," said Sherri Pothoven. "I wouldn't want her as my president."
One deadline for Palin is Aug. 13, when Iowa Republicans stage a straw poll that tests campaigns' ability to get supporters to a coliseum in Ames to hear speeches and vote.
Palin could wait to declare her candidacy until after that, Robinson said. But she'd have to use the gathering of tens of thousands of Republicans to at least signal her intentions. "You can make it work any way you want," he said.
After that, she'd have to get in by early September to have enough time to campaign across the state and get machinery in place to mobilize supporters to show up at precinct caucuses next winter.
If she runs, she'd compete closely with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Both appeal strongly to social conservatives and tea party activists. Bachmann, who formally launched her campaign Monday in the Iowa town where she was born, is neck and neck in the state with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a recent Des Moines Register poll.
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