Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin looks back at a reporter during her visit to Yankee Seafood Cooperative in Seabrook, New Hampshire June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)

But then, just as the debate lurched to a final close on the day the country threatened to default, the 2008 vice presidential candidate suddenly reemerged on the political scene.

On Tuesday’s Fox News’ “Hannity,” Palin seemed to take it very personally when Democrats compared tea-party House Republicans to “terrorists” in referring to their tactics in the debt fight.

“I'm not just going to roll over with a sticker plastered on my forehead that says, hit me baby one more time, call me a terrorist again, call me a racist,” she told Hannity.

“And I'm going stand up for those fiscally conservative patriotic independent Americans who want the best for this country.”

Palin also criticized former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a potential rival in the 2012 presidential race, saying he “waited until it was a done deal that we would increase the debt ceiling” before coming out against the compromise.

Those kind of headline-grabbing comments raise questions about Palin’s future plans. But the former Alaska governor has a tendency to insert herself into debates with a splash and retreat just as quickly as she appeared, going dark for weeks at a time. Given recent history, it won’t be long before Palin disappears again.

As other 2012 presidential candidates ramp up their campaigns heading into next week’s Ames straw poll and this fall’s debates, Palin is barely a presence in Iowa or any other primary state. She has shot down reports that the high-profile bus tour that took her to New Hampshire in June is over, but two months later it has yet to restart.

The end of that tour was her last major media blitz. On June 2nd, wrapping up her trip, Palin criticized Romney in New Hampshire. She appeared on “Hannity” on June 3rd and on “Fox News Sunday” on June 5th.

Then Palin disappeared — even as archives of her emails from her time as Alaska governor were released and pored over by the media. On June 28th, she went to Pella, Iowa, for the premiere of “The Undefeated,” a movie about her governorship, but said little.

Palin was on the sidelines of the debt ceiling debate, aside from a couple appearances: a Hannity appearance on July 13th in which she criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). and a mid-July Newsweek profile in which she opposed raising the debt ceiling and said she could beat President Obama.*

On Twitter, Palin promoted her daughter Bristol’s book and little else. Her other comments on the debt ceiling were via a couple vague Facebook notes.

Then, Palin reemerged. On July 26th, she was on Greta van Susteren’s show. Two days later, she posted a Facebook comment that included a threat to House Republicans at the end: “P.S. Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries.”

Yet, Palin explicitly positioned herself as an observer of the debt debate, saying that “out here in proverbial politico flyover country, we little folk are watching the debt ceiling debate with great interest and concern.”

The note suggests that even if Palin doesn’t run for president, she will be involved in primary endorsements (as she was in 2010). That role would let her pick and choose her appearances in a way a presidential candidate cannot.

“Doggone it, I want these candidates who are in there,” Palin said of Romney yesterday. “I want them to not be sitting back.” Her sporadic involvement in the political debate suggest that she won’t be one of those candidates. If she does, it would still shake up the race in a major way — but she would be forced to follow her own advice.


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* This post originally stated that the Newsweek profile came out in mid-July. It was mid-June. Sorry for the error.