In the clearest indication to date that she is seriously considering a presidential run, Sarah Palin plans to launch a nationwide bus tour from Washington, D.C., this Sunday.
"Governor Palin and the SarahPAC team will begin a trip through our nation's rich historical sites, starting from Washington, D.C. and going up through New England," said a statement posted Thursday on Palin's political action committee website. "The 'One Nation Tour' is part of our new campaign to educate and energize Americans about our nation's founding principles, in order to promote the Fundamental Restoration of America."
Sources close to the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee tell RealClearPolitics, which first broke the story, that the tour could last several weeks and would be divided into separate geographical stretches. The first stop will be at the "Rolling Thunder" Memorial Day weekend motorcycle rally in Washington. A "New England" stop would seem to indicate a stop in New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Palin as recently as last week said she was still considering a run, but refused to offer any clues as to her timetable for making a final decision. Though Scott Conroy, the reporter who broke the story, said aides were calling the tour a nontraditional "exploratory" effort, it was not clear whether she would be filing necessary paperwork to indicate as much. Her website said the bus tour was being funded through her PAC.
Palin's plans have become the subject of recent and furious speculation following reports that she and husband Todd have purchased an 8,000-square-foot house in Scottsdale, Ariz., for about $1.7 million -- a place that could be used as a national campaign base.
She continues to be a contract employee with Fox News Channel, which has cut ties with other Republicans who went on to launch campaigns. A Fox spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A new Gallup poll released Thursday showed Palin neck-and-neck with GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in a national survey of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters. Romney was supported by 17%, compared to Palin's 15%.
James Oliphant contributed to this report.