Conservative Sarah Palin returned to the U.S. political arena on Saturday after several months absence with a feisty speech attacking both the establishment Republican Party and Democratic President Barack Obama and proclaiming “the 2012 elections begin here.”

In a move apparently aimed at keeping her name in the running for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election, Palin addressed several thousand people in Wisconsin, a state bitterly divided by a political fight over union rights.

Palin has been mostly absent from politics since the January shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, when she was criticized for accusing opponents of manufacturing a “blood libel” against her.

That absence has seen her standing slide among potential frontrunners for the Republican nomination.

As snow and sleet fell on Madison’s main square, Palin attacked the budget compromise between Republicans and Obama on cuts of around $38 billion instead of $100 billion promised by Republicans in elections last November.

“That is not courage, that is capitulation,” she said, adding that a recent bruising battle in Wisconsin over union bargaining rights provided a number of lessons.

“We didn’t elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic,” she said. “We didn’t elect you just to stand back and watch Obama redistribute those deck chairs.”

While former governors Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have announced they hope to be candidates to challenge Obama, Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, has not said whether she will seek the Republican nomination for president.

Continue reading on