If voters send Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin home next week, some of her critics there are worried the self-dubbed lipsticked pit bull or her supporters might come seeking revenge.
"I am no fool. She is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future. That's life," said Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla, Alaska native.
"She will continue to pursue punitive action against people she doesn't like," Kilkenny added. After Palin joined the GOP ticket in late August, Kilkenny penned a lengthy email on Palin's pros and cons that was forwarded thousands of times, making its author an overnight political sensation -- and one of the most visible early critics of Palin's candidacy.
In her email, Kilkenny gave Palin props for being "smart," "savvy," and "energetic and hardworking." But she also said her neighbor and governor had "unbridled ambition" and "predatory ruthlessness," was prone to cronyism and fiscally irresponsible.
Another concerned critic: Retired Pastor Howard Bess of the Church of the Covenant in Palmer, Alaska, who in September told ABC News and others how in the 1990s Palin had tried to get local bookstores to stop selling his book, "Pastor, I Am Gay." Palin has said she has never tried to ban any book.
"When I have talked quite freely, I've done so realizing that there's a price that I have paid," he said.
Bess, an ordained Baptist minister, said he expected Palin would likely block state funds from going to non-profit groups with which he is involved, including a local arts council. Last year Palin blocked a hefty state grant from going to the program, despite approval by the legislature, Bess said.
At the time, Palin said the council's work -- and that of other groups whose funding she vetoed -- was "nonessential."
The McCain-Palin campaign did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Dave Dittman, an Alaska Republican pollster who worked on Palin's 2006 campaign, said her critics had "probably not a whole lot" to fear. "I guess the best way to say it, is that she wouldn't be vindictive in any way that would damage Alaska," he said.
Lap Dog or Attack dog?
Dittman was quoted last year saying, "the landscape is littered with the bodies of those who crossed Sarah," but explained recently he said that because he was asked if she could be a strong leader who could stand up to entrenched interests.
But some insiders say that if Palin loses, she will have to be more lap dog than attack dog to keep her political career alive – a necessity if, as some pundits are saying, she is mulling a presidential run of her own in 2012.
Palin, while still popular in Alaska, cannot rely on the staggering public approval ratings she once enjoyed, and she has damaged her ties with the state legislature.
For most of her time as governor, Palin saw approval numbers in the 80s; she has reportedly lost roughly 20 points since joining the McCain campaign. Observers say that's because she has pushed a brand of acrimonious partisanship from the stump that turns off Alaska voters. Dittman, the pollster, said her numbers were bound to drip since her earlier high ratings were "unsustainable."
From the campaign trail, Palin also hurt her relationship with the some legislators over the "Troopergate" scandal, surrounding her firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Her handling of the investigation became perhaps one of the more damaging chapters in her short run for vice president.
In July, Palin pledged cooperation with the legislature's bipartisan probe into her office, but she did an about-face after joining the GOP ticket, launching legal and public relations assaults on the probe, and attacking Democratic legislators she had previously worked with to pass legislation.
And Troopergate isn't over for Palin, either. Later this year, she can expect to be hit with the findings of a second investigation – a probe she herself ordered up, after attempting to discredit the legislature's inquiry. If the probe, by the state Personnel Board, reaches conclusions similar to the earlier probe, it could bring further tarnish to the governor's reputation.
The Man at the Center of Troopergate
One thorn in Palin's side who isn't worried about retaliation: Walt Monegan, the man at the center of the Troopergate brouhaha. "No," he said when asked recently if he was concerned Palin might seek revenge for his public comments about the governor. Monegan's suggestion that his firing may have been personally motivated set off the chain of events which led to the Troopergate probes; he has repeatedly contradicted Palin's version of events leading up to his firing in press accounts.
"If she had gotten elected to vice president -- I was kidding around that I could end up on the no-fly list," Monegan said. "But maybe she comes back with a little more broader view of what it takes to be a leader."
"A lot of successful leaders, it's necessary to fail before you can win," Monegan explained. "Perhaps that will broaden her understanding and compassion a little more."