Reporter's Notebook: Iowa 2012

"Come on, Sarah."

Once more, Sarah Palin came to Iowa. Once more, it was for a book signing. This time it was at the WalMart in Spirit Lake.

Again, no questions allowed by media (local or national) and no opportunities for possible 2012 caucus-goers to get close and ask what's on their minds.

Supporters -- like those standing in line today in Spirit Lake -- don't mind that. In fact, the people we saw were delighted to meet the former governor of Alaska. Palin, in an apparent great mood, joked with people in line, shook hands and even autographed one woman's boot.

But the Iowa press corps, accustomed to regular access and one-on-one interviews with White House wannabes, has grown impatient.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette writes, "Will a Mama Grizzly Maul the Caucuses?" questioning whether such a political rockstar will even bother with retail politics, even in Iowa.

Political columnist Kathie Obradovitch of the Des Moines Register is more blunt. She writes Palin cannot merely "flirt" with Hawkeye State voters.

It is early. None of the contenders for the Republican nomination have officially announced they are running. But, they've all done stints of retail politics in Iowa. All of them.

Tim Pawlenty. Mike Huckabee. Newt Gingrich. Halley Barbour. Rich Santorum. Mitt Romney.

Palin might not read the Register or the Gazette. But Iowans do.

"Maybe Later"

Terry Branstad, the once and future Iowa governor, says he's not sure if he will endorse a candidate for the 2012 Republican Caucus. And if he does, the Republican governor-elect tells Fox News it will be late in the caucus campaign, closer to the actual date, now set for Feb. 6.

Asked whether Palin's endorsement of him in his gubernatorial campaign would sway him, Branstad says no.

So, what is Branstad looking for? In a word, participation.Being a big name, being popular won't cut it for him or for many other Iowans, Branstad says.

"You cannot take Iowans for granted even if you are a very popular and charismatic leader like Ronald Reagan. You need to come here, you need to actively campaign and go all throughout the state."

"I'll spell it out for you"

Iowa's Tea Party groups are gearing up for the caucuses.There are plans to make sure there is a Tea Party presence at every public appearance every presidential candidate makes.That sounds ambitious... until you realize there are more than 50 Tea Party groups statewide.

When I asked just how active Tea Party folks in Iowa might be when it comes to quizzing candidates, Jerry Jones of the Spirit Lake Tea Party had an emphatic answer, "V-E-R-Y! Very active, I can promise you that!"

Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.