Gov. Sarah Palin continued her surprising star turn on the national stage Saturday, stumping for her new running mate, Sen. John McCain in Pennsylvania.
Quieting chants of "Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!" Palin described her role in the presidential campaign against Democrat Barack Obama -- and let Alaskans know what their governor will be up to for the next two months.
"The next 66 days, I'm going to take our campaign into every part of the country, and our message of reform, to every voter of every background, of every political party ..." Palin said, her voice rising in what's about to become a familiar scene between now and the Nov. 4 election.
It was a speech heavy in Alaskana, with Palin introducing her family and retelling her rise from mayor of Wasilla to McCain's vice presidential nominee. McCain referred to the First Dude as "'Iron Dog's Todd Palin'" -- before telling the crowd Palin is "not from these parts, and she's not from Washington."
The rally continued a short campaign tour that began when McCain shocked the country by naming Palin his running mate Friday morning.
Next stop: A rally in St. Louis today with former presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, said Palin campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella.
As Comella talked, Palin's daughters could be heard in the background on the campaign tour bus. The candidates have been traveling together, but each has their own rig, Comella said. Palin's is called the "Straight Talk Express II."
Back in Alaska, some members of Palin's staff said Saturday they didn't know exactly when she's coming home. Comella didn't have a specific date either.
"You can just say in the 'immediate future,'" she said.
Palin is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. First, she talked about her candidacy in a hasty phone interview Saturday with the Daily News.
Q. When you went down to Arizona to meet with McCain (last week), did you know that you were going to get offered the job?
A. No, it was a very pleasant surprise that the senator offered me this, and I have a great appreciation that he would put this confidence in me.
Q. What was your understanding of what was going to happen in Arizona?
A. They wanted to talk to me is what I was told. Talk to me about the position, and my understanding was that others were still being considered, so I didn't know what to expect except to go to Arizona, speak with the senator, be myself and let him know what I had to offer, but not campaign for the job.
And again -- pleasantly surprised and quite honored.
Q. What did he say exactly? Did he offer you the job, did he ask you to join him? How did he phrase it?
A. When the conversation wrapped up, yes, he asked would I like to join him in this. And I said, 'if I can help the country, and if I can help you on the ticket, absolutely I would be honored.'
Q. Where were you guys?
A. We were in Sedona, at his home there, outside on his lawn, as he and I spoke.
And evidently ... they had been doing a tremendous amount of background work on not just me but many other candidates and that had been obviously ongoing for many, many months because they had my information.
Q. Obviously the talk had been going on for months. I never got the impression you took it super seriously.
A. No, I honestly did think it was out of the realm of possibility. I knew that the senator and I, we would have just sort of an inherent connection, though, with our mission being reform and putting the people first before any party or personal interests.
I've known all along he, as such a maverick, that we would have a connection. But I didn't know if he knew enough about me to seriously be a consideration.
Because, as you know ... What I've done up there in Alaska is I've taken steps to do those things that I think now can be done on a national level also. So that we can see that reform that Americans are craving and are deserving, and as Senator McCain has done in his entire career also -- going up against a lot of influence that has been undue influence, in some cases, in policy making in Washington D.C., he and I have done a lot of these same things. Though he on a much grander scale.
Q. If elected, do you feel like you will have left any unfinished business in Alaska?
A. Not when I consider that we have an amazing cabinet. We have a very good lieutenant governor in place. We all from day one have worked as a team there in Alaska, and I believe that we'll see a continuation of what the Palin policies were. And that is tackling the tough issues and putting the people of Alaska first and not allowing the undue, unethical influence that had infiltrated Alaskan politics for those years.
That will continue to ... I believe that (Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell) will not put up with that either. So I have tremendous confidence in the cabinet and in Sean Parnell and others who are working so hard for the state of Alaska that even without me there, the people of Alaska will be put first.
Q. But of course Parnell's running for higher office also ... Who's going to be running the show, who's going to have the reins while you guys are campaigning?
A. I'll still be the governor and I'll still be serving Alaskans every day, even in these 66 days that I will be campaigning with Sen. McCain, and thankfully technology allows me to do that. My visits back to Alaska, as often as possible allow me to do that.
And like every other woman in America, you know, I'm used to multi-tasking and I'm very, very energized by this and I know that we'll be able to succeed on both ends.
Q. Are you ready to be President Palin if necessary?
A. I am ... I am up to the task of course. Of focusing on the challenges that face America and I am very pleased with the situation that I am in, when, when you consider the situation now that Alaska will be in.
And that is Alaska, and Alaskans will be allowed to contribute more to our great country and they'll be allowed to do that because I -- if we're elected -- will be in a position of opening the eyes of the country to what it is that Alaska is all about and what Alaska has to offer.
So, happy to and very honored to be asked to do this. I know it's going to be great for Alaska, and with Sen. McCain at the helm our country is going to be so much better off. ... Tackling the tough challenges that face America. And as vice president I am happy be allowed to participate in this reform movement if we're elected.
Q. Is Troopergate going to hurt your candidacy?
A. No, not when you consider ... I did not pressure commissioner Monegan to hire or fire anybody. And commissioner Monegan confirmed that again today. As he had been confirming all along but I think that had been ignored.
And so, no I'm not worried about that.
Note: At this point, Palin's spokeswoman said it was almost time to go. But first, the governor described her afternoon:
"We're getting on a bus, we're in Pittsburgh right now. We're heading to Washington, Pennsylvania, and I'll get to get out there and meet more good Americans, and the really neat thing about where we have been even in the last 24 hours with Sen. McCain, hopping on and off the bus, shaking hands with people, is people are excited about Alaska.
"They're asking me what's it like up there. They're sharing their stories of maybe a cruise that they've taken. They relate to somebody who they know who's been to Alaska and they're so excited about Alaska. And that's again, a great thing for Alaska to be in this position."
Find Kyle Hopkins' political blog online at adn.com/alaskapolitics or call him at 257-4334.