Jillian Bandes
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One of the biggest questions for conservatives right now is whether Sarah Palin will run for president in 2012.

Recent moves by Palin suggest that she will.

Palin just announced that she would speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in April – the second-most important GOP political gathering behind the Republican National Convention. While it’s not guaranteed that an appearance at the event means an individual will enter the GOP primary, it’s virtually impossible to enter the primary without having appeared.

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“Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's decision to attend — and speak at — the SLRC… transforms that event into the first legitimate cattle-call of the 2012 Republican presidential sweepstakes,” wrote Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post.

Palin’s SLRC speech will happen right after a keynote address at the National Tea Party Convention, which has a goal of consolidating the movement’s “multiple organizations.”

Matthew Continetti, author of The Persecution of Sarah Palin, says that the dual appearances are good news on the heels of Palin’s abrupt exit from the Alaska governorship, and that they could indicate 2012 Presidential aspirations.

“Palin began her rehabilitation with her book launch and media tour. Now, with the SRLC appearance, she’s continuing to lay the groundwork for a presidential run,” he said.

“I happen to think her more important appearance will be at the national Tea Party convention next month — Palin, unlike many prominent Republicans, understands the GOP must capture the Tea Party message, enthusiasm, and supporters if it wants to return to power.”

Continetti’s assessment is right in line with a National Journal poll last month, which put Palin dead last as the “GOP political insider” choice for the Republican nomination – that’s coming from party leaders, political professionals and pundits. Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was their pick.

But Palin’s tea party appeal can’t be denied among the GOP rank-and-file. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and forty-one percent of all voters currently see Palin as “representative of a new direction for the Republican Party,” and many put her approval ratings on par with Obama’s. Palin does well in indicators of “shared values” and “trustworthiness” among all voters.

Combine those favorability ratings with her record-breaking book tour, and hopes are pie-in-the-ski for her nomination as the GOP presidential candidate. Her autobiography Going Rogue has sold over a million copies, with record turnout at her book tour events.

“This book tour has been an amazing and inspirational experience for me and my family as we crisscrossed the country and met so many wonderful Americans,” said Palin, via her Facebook page.

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Jillian Bandes

Jillian Bandes is the National Political Reporter for Townhall.com