EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Republican National Chairman Michael Steele said Thursday that 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is among a crowd of current GOP standard bearers that also includes fellow governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
But he said it was too early to gauge her party standing in 2012, when she hasn't ruled out a presidential run.
Steele and Palin were in Evansville, Ind., to attend the Vanderburgh County Right to Life dinner that night. Organizers said the dinner had drawn an overflow crowd of 3,000 people.
During a news conference before the dinner, Steele was asked if the GOP was looking to Palin to be one of its leaders in 2012.
"I don't know about 2012. I think she is a standard bearer right now. She and Mitt Romney and Governor Pawlenty, Governor Sanford, Rudy Giuliani, Eric Cantor, Mike Pence. We have a significant number of men and women in our party who are in a very good position right now to carry forward the standard of the GOP," Steele said.
Pence of Indiana and Cantor of Virginia are congressmen. Many in the party also look to Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana as a presidential favorite in 2012.
Thursday night's appearance was Palin's first out-of-state trip on a partisan agenda since the presidential campaign ended.
Palin was cheered wildly by supporters as she entered the banquet hall with her husband, Todd. She stopped to sign autographs for several people before taking her seat at a table.
Palin, her husband and son Trig also were to attend a breakfast Friday morning with S.M.I.L.E., a nonprofit support organization for people with family members who have Down syndrome. Trig, who turns 1 on Saturday, was born with the condition.