Sarah Palin has taken on a pathetic quality. She’s not in the presidential race and, as I’ve long predicted, won’t be. She nevertheless pines for the spotlight. So her “One Nation” tour bird-dogged Mitt Romney’s kick off in New Hampshire. She spent the last few days weaving in and out of Iowa to lunge for the media spotlight but only attracted a single camera crew. Politico described it:

The leg of Palin’s “One Nation” bus tour that’s now ending lasted four days, beginning midday Friday, when Palin appeared at the Iowa State Fair—just in time for her to catch the attention of the assembled national political media mob in town for the Ames Straw Poll.

On Saturday, she visited Ronald Reagan’s childhood home in Dixon, Ill., and his nearby alma mater of Eureka College. She was in Eureka when the straw poll results were released, and NBC News asked her what she thought of the results.

“The prediction was that it would either be Ron Paul or Michele Bachmann, because they spent a lot of time and energy to make sure they had delegates there who would cast those votes — so not really a surprise,” Palin told NBC, the only major news outlet following her in Illinois.

She added a few Palin-esque observations — one part conspiracy and one part nonsense. (“I would love to have seen Pawlenty stay in there and allow the voters to decide, not internal political machinery decide, who should be in the race and who should not.” Huh?) But then she exited, at least for now, the stage. “While kids crack open their school books, I look forward to continuing my own writing and research on strategies and plans to help move our country forward,” she said.

And to put a final exclamation point on her self-pitying obsession with the media she left on this sour note:

Specifically inviting over reporter Kasie Hunt from Politico so she could hear the exchange, Palin called [Daily Caller reporter Alex] Pappas’ cell phone and began berating him in a very scolding manner for writing a headline suggesting she supports Romney. Pappas didn’t even know what she was talking about. When he tried to say that neither he nor his editors had written such a headline, she said she didn’t have time for this, that she needed to go back to the “real people” at the State Fair, and hung up on him.

Later, when it became clear that Fox Nation, not Pappas or The Daily Caller, had written the semi-offending headline, a Palin press aide called Pappas back not to apologize but to say that they now realized it was Fox and that the headline had been taken down. “No,” Pappas said, far more bemused than angry or upset, “he didn’t come close to apologizing.”

She has come to resemble the man she inveighs against: Barack Obama. Like him, she launched a bus tour with no apparent purpose. It’s simply what they do these days. Neither has anything terribly constructive to say, so they snipe at the media and the GOP field. But in one respect, of course, the two figures are polar opposites: Obama is at the center of the national debate and is a 2012 contender; she is neither.

There has always been a streak of victimhood in Palin’s act. Burned by the media, she decided to make the “lamestream media” her target. It hardly matters whether it is an emotional fixation or a carefully designed strategy to egg on the often-aggrieved hard-core conservatives. Either way, in making that her central concern she has marginalized herself.

The irony is that she could still be highly influential and effective within her party. She could weigh in on critical ideas to influence fellow conservatives (for example, she’s never had a yen for anti-gay-marriage politics). She could continue to recruit and back female candidates. But her recent behavior only advertises her diminishing influence.

If and when Palin endorses another candidate it will be catnip for the media, but will it really matter? No. Like Palin herself, a Palin-endorsement would be a media sideshow, but ultimately lacking in significance.