Sarah Palin rides to the sound of the guns. It was a chilly, wet and blustery afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin — one more appropriate for a late-season Packers game than a springtime political rally. The stirring NFL Films theme,  “The Classic Battle,” would’ve been a more apt musical choice than Van Halen’s “Right Now” to accompany Palin as she entered the stage outside the state capital building to address thousands of Tea Party members, along with a good number of extremely hostile, expletive-hurling government union rowdies.

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In the last few months, political professionals and insiders have been writing off the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate, convinced she won’t run for the GOP nomination in 2012 or ever. Then again, even those GOPers who are running can hardly compete with the MSM’s weird, all-consuming fascination with The Donald.

But all it took was one powerful, pugnacious and presidential speech — just 15 minutes long — for Palin to again make herself completely relevant to the current political and policy battles raging across America.

She waded forcefully into the state’s white-hot battle over government union power, giving her full-throated support to Gov. Scott Walker: “These are the front lines in the battle of the future for our country. A pension is a promise that must be kept. Scott Walker understands this. He understands that states must be solvent to keep their promises. He’s not trying to hurt union members. Hey folks, he’s trying to save your jobs.”

Then, perfectly capturing the real-time mood of the conservative grassroots, Palin scorched the ever-shrinking budget deal negotiated by congressional Republicans. “We didn’t elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. What we need from you, GOP, is to fight.” She then urged Washington Republicans to take a page from the national champion University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team and “learn how to fight like a girl.”

Finally, it was President Barack Obama’s turn. She defended, to great cheering, Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan from the president’s blindside attack on his bold budget plan. Palin contrasted it with Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan, describing it as a “trillion-dollar travesty.” She mocked his latest economic proposals as naive bets on “really fast trains and solar shingles.” The clincher: “Our president isn’t leading; he’s punting on this debt crisis. Win the future? The only future he wants to win is his re-election.”

That line about fighting like a girl, as well as her “Game on!” declaration will surely reignite speculation about presidential plans. And understandably so. Frontrunner Mitt Romney continues to fashion and refashion a saleable explanation for his Obamacare-esque Massachusetts health plan. And while Tim Pawlenty scored a coup with the hiring of hotshot campaign manager Nick Ayers, his embryonic candidacy is still a work in progress. There’s enough voter unease that another Mitch Daniels boomlet seems to be in progress.

Will she run? Even many of those close to Team Palin have no idea. Palin herself may not have made a decision and may not feel she needs to until the autumn. But as it stands, she arguably represents the purest expression out there of Tea Party passion and free-market populist rejection of Washington’s bipartisan crony capitalism. If she ran, her high-wattage appearance in Madison shows just how dangerous her candidacy would be to a field of solid but stolid opponents.

Here’s how John Nolte of Big Government put it:

If Sarah Palin’s not running for president, what a terrible waste that would be of the single best stump speech I’ve heard since, well, Palin’s ’08 convention speech, which just happened to be the single most electrifying political moment of my adult life. … On this day, Tea Party tax-day, Sarah Palin walked into the heart of this nation’s battle, stared down a gallery of Leftist union goons with poise and grace, and articulated our message as well as anyone ever could. Let’s hope this is just the beginning.

So MSM, keep obsessing over the shiny new Trump toy if you must. But better keep an eye on a certain sharpshooting, grizzly mama. She’s back.