In 1992 the Democrats didn't really put any big candidates up against George H. W. Bush because they believed that Bush was a shoo-in. If it wasn't for Perot, Clinton, an unknown governor from a relatively unimportant state, would most likely have lost.
So if Palin does run in 2016 it's because she probably figured that Obama would win and wanted to wait until she had a better chance. This most likely explains her active support of local candidates with nominal support of Romney.
Reagan went up against Ford even though his chances were slim. If Palin were really the next Reagan she would have gone up against Obama even if she figured she would lose in the end.
But she didn't.
With all due respect, there were several possible explanations for Palin sitting the last race out.
First off, her daughters were still young. She may have seen them growing through that age just as a candidacy was going on, as damaging to their future.
They’ll be older, will have four additional years when the next race is on. That’s a long long time at that age.
Second she won’t be up against Mitt next time either. That was a serious challenge, no question about it with the GOPe on his side.
The GOPe has been greatly de-fanged. Even a Bush or a Rubio, could be beat handily.
Just saying. Not sure if she’ll run or not, but it’s a pretty strong case, for her thinking about it anyway.