ABC News’ Imtiyaz Delawala reports: On a flight between Ohio and Indiana this afternoon, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came back to the press section of her campaign plane and took questions for seven minutes — the second time she has done so in the past two weeks.
The Republican vice presidential nominee answered reporters’ questions on why she’s no longer raising Sen. Barack Obama’s connection to William Ayers on the campaign trial, whether she’s worried about the McCain campaign needing to defend traditionally Republican states, and her upcoming appearance tomorrow on "Saturday Night Live."
While two weeks ago, Palin was accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists" and questioning his judgment and character, Palin said today that she does not question the Democratic presidential nominee’s love for America.
"I know Obama loves America. I’m sure that is why he’s running for president. It’s because he wants to do what he believes is in the best interest of this great nation. I believe that our ticket can do a better job for America," Palin said. "But I don’t question at all Barack Obama’s love for this great country."
Palin herself was blasted by Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden today for saying at a fundraiser in North Carolina on Thursday that she enjoyed visiting "pro-America" areas of the country. Palin defended her comment, saying she did not mean to suggest that "any one area of America is more pro-America patriotically than others."
"Every area, every area across this great country where we’re stopping and where also the other ticket is stopping and getting to speak at these rallies and speak with the good Americans, it’s all pro-America," Palin said. "I was just reinforcing the fact that there, where I was, there’s good patriotic people there in these rallies, so excited about positive change and reform of government that’s coming that they are so appreciative of hearing our message, hearing our plan."
In recent days, Palin has noticeably toned down the rhetoric in her campaign speeches, no longer mentioning Obama’s association with former 60′s radical William Ayers. When asked why she is no longer mentioning the tie, Palin said that "the association is out there" and it’s now up to voters to decide whether it’s important.
"Well, I think that American voters are understanding that association — that it’s okay to talk about fact," Palin said. "It’s up now to the people of America to decide whether that association is important enough to them to research and find out more about a person’s judgment and truthfulness."
Palin said she has not asked Sen. McCain to raise Obama’s association with his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, saying that it’s up to McCain whether he should raise the tie.
"It’s up to him you know and what he chooses to discuss," Palin said. "It is fair to the electorate to have the discussion — the debate about someone’s record and associations, but I haven’t advised Senator McCain on who he should bring up and what his topics of discussion should be."
With only 19 days to go until Election Day, the McCain-Palin ticket finds itself behind in most national and battleground state polls. And Palin has spent time in the last two days campaigning in North Carolina and Indiana — two states that are usually solidly Republican in national elections.
"I think it’s wise not to take anything for granted and assume that any state is a lock for either ticket, so if there were more hours in the day and more availabilities I would hope that we can be in even more states," Palin said when asked if she was concerned that the campaign is spending resources defending traditionally red states. "I don’t want to take anything for granted, and my input has been let us get out there to as many states as we have time for."
While Palin has now been on the national stage for six weeks since accepting the Republican vice presidential nomination, questions continue to be raised on whether she is qualified to serve as vice president, or as commander in chief if she were to become president. Palin defended her qualifications, saying her executive experience in Alaska has prepared her well for national office.
"If we’re so blessed to be elected president and vice president, that executive experience will be put to good use, as coming from a mayor and a manager, small business owner and a governor and a regulator of oil and gas," Palin said, citing qualifications she often raises on the campaign trail.
When not campaigning together, Palin says she talks to her running mate Sen. John McCain a few times a day, discussing the news of the day and plans for the campaign. While the two often campaigned together for large joint rallies in the first weeks after Palin’s nomination, they are now holding more solo events to cover more ground in the final days before Election Day.
"We really enjoy being able to campaign together and I wish we could do more of that together because we have I think some great synergy and really great chemistry and we get along so well, that not only is it very productive but its also fun to be able to campaign with him," Palin said.
Palin says she is excited about her appearance on "Saturday Night Live" tomorrow, saying it will give her an opportunity to show her having a sense of humor through the grind of campaigning. She does not yet know how she will be showcased on the show.
"I have no idea what to expect because I haven’t seen any scripts or anything else yet, but it will be fun," Palin said.