Maybe she figured she could either get away for the Alfalfa Dinner or CPAC but not both and had to make a hard choice.
For the sake of her future, let's hope that was not the calculus. Let's hope there is something urgent, instead. (... In fairness, Palin looks to have her hands full in Alaska.)
CPAC is the largest gathering of conservative activists each year. Ronald Reagan -- the only Republican president to come from the conservative movement -- spoke at CPAC 12 times!
Granted, it's not a perfect analogy, but here's what I wrote about John McCain's failure to attend CPAC in 2007:
It's fair to say that John McCain's failure to attend CPAC this year was a huge strategic mistake. Woody Allen once said, "Eighty percent of life is just showing up." He was right. John McCain was wrong.
... By dipping his toes in the conservative movement, speaking at some events (such as Liberty University), but avoiding others (such as CPAC), McCain has made the worst of both worlds. He has lost some of his appeal as a maverick -- but he has failed miserably to gain the support of conservatives.
In any event, it appears the campaign that once wanted to stress inevitability has failed to wrap things up early. I have also heard rumors of a staff-shakeup -- as well as rumors that John McCain's staff was actually unaware he would be "announcing" on Letterman. This is just a rumor, but it's at least plausible (given his recent mistakes).
Missing CPAC is symbolic of the reason conservatives do not trust him. If Rudy Giuliani can show up at CPAC, how can McCain justify being the only candidate not to make an appearance?
The point is that this is one appointment you keep. Is it possible that, in order to rehabilitate her image, Palin is distancing herself from the conservative movement? Let's hope not, but her recent attendance at the Alfalfa Dinner certainly will increase speculation.
In any event, the straw poll just got a lot more interesting...