Jersey City, New Jersey (CNN) - A presidential campaign typically begins at the micro-level in Iowa or New Hampshire, with small town meet-and-greets and well-timed endorsements from elected officials and grassroots leaders.
But nothing Sarah Palin and her team do these days seems typical.
Palin’s advisers are confident, in fact, that she can avoid entering the race until as late as October of this year, when certain states begin to have filing deadlines for their 2012 primary contests.
Yet while the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee will appear in New Hampshire later this week and has plans to visit Iowa in June, she appears in no hurry to reach out to local officials and political operatives in those key early states that hold such sway over the presidential nominating process.
“Well, I figure that politicians in office are really busy and they don’t need to be bothered by someone just knocking their door,” Palin told CNN and RealClearPolitics in a lengthy interview Tuesday at the New Jersey hotel where she stayed on the third night of her “One Nation” bus tour.
Palin’s detractors in the GOP establishment and in the campaigns of her potential rivals claim that such talk signals a politically-fatal lack of discipline or seriousness.
Their suspicions might have been affirmed Tuesday when news leaked that Palin was to meet with Donald Trump in his gilded apartment in Manhattan - hardly a regular night out for the kind of hard-working voter that Palin must win over if she seeks the GOP nomination.
Palin’s advisers, though, say that multiple factors, including a still wide-open Republican field, happen to be working in her favor as she contemplates a bid.
Her megawatt celebrity and built-in appeal to the Republican base gives her a more flexible timeline for making a decision about the race. While she may not be able to entirely bypass the political groundwork needed to mount a campaign, she can at least afford to delay the process.
Instead of hiring a large staff and building goodwill with all the right people in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the onetime city councilwoman and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska said she prefers a more homespun approach to politicking.
“We were in Wal-Mart last night in Gettysburg and I met one of the local city council members who happened to be there in line, so it’s not that we avoid them,” Palin said, once again pressed on her seeming indifference to building the political support traditionally required to mount a national campaign.
Her political skills were on display Tuesday during a bus tour stop in the central Pennsylvania hamlet of Dillsburg, where Palin breezed into a coffee shop and happily sat down with two locals.
With a common touch that sometimes seems to elude several of her potential rivals for the Republican nomination, Palin got the two men to open up about their personal lives before veering into a conversation about the sluggish economy.
“I would never lose that ability or that desire to get to be with that one-on-one relationship with people,” Palin said in the interview. “I think it’s the most valuable thing a person, a professional politician, anybody can have, is that desire to have that one on one relationship with people."
“That’s how you learn and grow and figure out what the needs and concerns are so that you can know what to concentrate on to help meet those needs,” she continued. “So yeah, if someone was to lose that, you become a typical politician. And that’s pretty tragic, in my eyes.”
Palin has also been at ease with the news media, her sworn enemy, throughout her bus tour. She has confounded both local and national reporters with her stubborn refusal to provide details of the bus’s itinerary, which is being planned out, often at the last minute, by Palin and her husband Todd.
But she has lingered with reporters and television cameras at several stops, ultimately granting more access to reporters outside of Fox News - where she has an exclusive contract as a network contributor - than at any point over the last two years.
Palin’s trip to New Hampshire later this week will be closely scrutinized, not just by the media but by the Granite State’s demanding primary voters, who insist on seeing candidates up close for several months before they go to the polls.
They might be miffed, though, to learn that Palin doesn’t regard them as any different from voters in other states.
“I honestly don’t look at states according to when their primaries are. To me, an American is an American no matter what their primary election dates,” Palin said, words destined to make blood boil in the offices of the New Hampshire Union-Leader editorial board.
Palin said New Hampshire voters are special, “but not just because they have a certain date of a primary election.”
“They’re special because they are Americans and obviously they want jobs, they want safety in their communities, they want strong national defense, they want the same things that everybody else wants, so I don’t know, I guess that’s that non-politician in me not looking at a New Hampshire voter any differently just because they have, you know, an earlier primary than somebody else,” she said.
After the interview, Palin wandered freely around the lobby of her hotel, chatting with CNN photographers about good fishing spots in New York and posing for pictures with a few guests.
Mostly, though, she went unnoticed - a remarkable turnaround from just a few hours earlier, when she was mobbed by the press outside her Manhattan meeting with Trump.
She then sat in the hotel lobby with her mother and daughter, aides nowhere in sight, as she waited for a supporter to arrive from New York City to talk about the prospect of a campaign for the White House.
– On Monday, June 13, CNN will host the first New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate, live from Manchester, NH at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news leading up to the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter.