Gov. Sarah Palin made a fleeting visit to Alaska this morning to vote at her home polling place in Wasilla.
Her private McCain-Palin campaign jet rolled into a private hangar at Stevens International Airport just before 5 a.m. She and husband Todd got out and hugged a few waiting supporters before getting into a dark Ford Excursion, Secret Service staff buzzing around them.
In a drama rarely seen here, the Palins led a motorcade of a dozen vans and SUVs full of press and staff out the Glenn Highway, Alaska State Troopers flanking them, sirens blaring.
First stop in Wasilla was Kaladi Bros. Coffee. A swarm of press people followed her inside, where she bantered with the manager while waiting for her white chocolate skinny mocha. A copy of the Anchorage Daily News caught her eye.
The headline: "Board exonerates Palin."
It was a story about a state Personnel Board investigator clearing her of ethics violations in the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
"Nice headline!" the governor said as she held it up for the cameras.
Asked how she felt about her chances in the election, she said, "Very confident."
Everyone piled back into cars and vans and headed to the Palin home at Lake Lucille. Fans bundled against temperatures in the low teens lined the highway, waving signs and chanting her name.
People sang "God Bless America" and hollered "I love you!" as she headed into the polling place at Wasilla City Hall.
Wearing jeans and a hooded Carhartt jacket with her name and the state seal sewn on it, she headed into a voting booth. Other voters tried to dodge the cameras that lined the walls.
On her way out, Palin stopped to greet people and trade hugs.
She and Todd briefly took questions from the media.
"I hope, I pray, I believe I'll be able to wake up as vice president-elect," she said.
A reporter asked how she felt about the Personnel Board report. She said she was pleased.
"We told ya we'd done nothing wrong," she said.
Palin called for the resignation of Sen. Ted Stevens after his conviction last week on federal fraud charges. So did she vote for Mark Begich?
"I am also exercising my right to privacy and I don't have to tell anybody who I voted for," she said.
Then it was back to the motorcade for a quick stop at her other favorite coffee stand, Mocha Moose. The barista asked the governor if she was excited.
"I'm so excited, yes!" she said.
Someone asked if Palin had any regrets.
"I just wish there was more hours in the day so we could've gotten around to more areas of our country," she said.
She said that she'd become disappointed with the media, present company excluded.
"Too much is reported based on gossip and innuendo and things taken out of context," she said.
Palin said she had a hard time correcting things that were misrepresented about her record. She hoped press coverage would be more accurate in the future.
"I'd like to help in that effort also because I have great respect for the world of journalism," she said.
Then it was back to the SUV. The motorcade snaked back to Anchorage, making a quick pit stop at a Chevron on Muldoon owned by a Palin family member who wasn't there. Palin, Todd and daughter Bristol, who had joined the parade, got out.
Bristol, her advancing pregnancy very obvious, and other members of the entourage loaded up on snacks while the Palins left a note.
After some snags in morning rush hour traffic, it was back to the tarmac. Sean Parnell and his wife, Sandy, stood in a bitter wind near the plane to see the Palins off. The traveling press corps, dragging gear, hustled to follow.
Palin and family were headed to Arizona to await election results with John and Cindy McCain.
The doors closed and, minutes later, the jet screamed into the sky.
Find Julia O'Malley online at adn.com/contact/jomalley or call 257-4591.Photos: Palin's return to Alaska
Video: Palin votes in Wasilla
By JULIA O'MALLEY