Former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was hands-down the brightest star at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, bringing attendees to their feet more than any other speaker, including three GOP presidential candidates.
Many felt the whole 'will she or won't she run for president' issue was settled last year, but there's no denying she still has the potential to be an electrifying force in a scattered and unsettled GOP field.
When it comes to rhetoric bashing President Obama, not even bombastic former House Speaker and GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is better.
Obama transformed "a shining city on a hill into a sinking ship," Palin said Saturday.
"He mucked it up," she said, causing the audience to jump into a standing ovation.
"What did we get in return for the president's spending spree? About 8.5 percent unemployment and 13 million Americans who can't find work; 46 million living in poverty," Palin said. "He says he has a jobs plan now, a jobs plan to win the future. WTF, I know … and I'm the idiot, yeah. His WTF plan."
Her penchant for turning Obama's most iconic phrases back on him to the feverish delight of her fans is something the likes of GOP presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum don't even attempt to do.
"If you look around, you can see failure. But it's not a failure of the American people. It's not a failure of America itself, it is the failure of our leadership," Palin said. "But we know how to change that. Oh, yes we do; oh, yes we can. Hope and change. Yeah, you gotta hope things change. It's change that we can believe in."
Despite her repertoire of well-rehearsed zingers, experts say it's the same old story for Palin, who stepped down midway through her gubernatorial term and has declined a presidential run in favor of becoming an author, paid speaker, and Fox News Channel consultant.
"I do think that running for elected office probably isn't in her cards of what she wants to do, because she gets a lot more attention paid to her by not having a constituency to report to," says Ron Bonjean, a Washington, D.C.-based GOP political consultant.
Palin's ability to affect change is greater now than it would be as a candidate or officeholder, he adds.
"She's much more powerful on the outside than she probably would be on the inside, in terms of affecting change, because then she'd have to work within the system instead of having to work outside the system with the Tea Party movement," Bonjean says.
Leonard Steinhorn, public communications professor at American University, says for those looking to divine Palin's political future, it's worth noting the role she's been playing in the GOP presidential race.
"Notice that part of her message was that a brokered convention wouldn't be so bad and guess who could emerge out of a brokered convention, with all of this enthusiasm and energy and all the rest?" he says. "My hunch is that has to be something she's thinking about. So it's in her personal interest to see this thing move along in a way that could potentially lead to not one of these current candidates emerging as a consensus candidate out of the Republican convention."
Bonjean agrees that such a scenario is possible, albeit unlikely.
"If presidential candidates have split the delegates so that it's a brokered convention, really anything can happen," he says. "That doesn't sound very realistic to me right now, but a year ago I wouldn't have been able to tell you that it would be Romney versus Santorum in a race."
Steinhorn also questions her electability in a general contest.
"She will certainly, if she were to ever run for office, make a lot of her base feel really good," he says. "The question is whether she will be able to expand beyond that."