Palin Draws Crowd, Speculation at Iowa Book Signing

Supporters hope her visit signals an eye toward 2012 presidential race.

ByBarbara Pinto, Jesus Ayala and Sidney Wright Iv
December 06, 2009, 9:37 PM

SIOUX CITY, Iowa, Dec. 6, 2009— -- The crowd began to gather Saturday night in the bitter cold.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-teens, people from near and far traveled to Sioux City, Iowa, to see former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and get the Alaskan to sign their copies of her autobiography, "Going Rogue."

Ann Sexton drove three hours from Des Moines to see her hero face-to-face.

"I want to be sure that I get to meet her," Sexton said. "If that means staying up all night wrapped in a down coat. … I used to live in Central Minnesota. This is nothing."

By this morning, hundreds of people packed Southern Hills Mall in Iowa's most conservative corner. Many people in attendance hoped Palin would be selling more than books.

"I would hope that she would think about running in 2012," Palin supporter Jaci Hoeffer said.

If Palin runs, Iowa's voters could make or break her campaign. Some Palin supporters said they see her as the future of the GOP.

"We are strong Republicans," Bob Hoeffer said. "We're kind of dismayed a little bit about where the party is going and we hope that Sarah becomes a leader."

Political analysts say Palin's visit to Iowa may be more than just a stop along her book tour.

Because Iowa's caucuses have traditionally launched the presidential nominating season, the visit is fueling speculation that Palin is working early on to endear herself to Iowa voters.

With her undeniable appeal, the former Alaska governor is perhaps the most provocative and recognizable face of her party. But a recent ABC News poll found that 60 percent of those surveyed say Palin is unfit to be president.

"I can't find an American who says, 'Sarah Palin … I don't have an opinion on here,'" political columnist George Will said. "Sarah Palin has intense supporters. She has intense and probably more numerous detractors, but there's an excluded middle."

Supporters See Beyond Iowa for Palin

Middle ground was hard to find at Palin's book signing today. She, her husband, mother and baby Trig were treated to a rock star's welcome.

"When we found out she was going to be here, we decided that we were going to camp out, bring all of our stuff, and make it a memorable event that we can tell our grandchildren about," supporter Cindy Rilling said.

Because of the number of people, Palin didn't spend very much time with any one supporter, which is atypical in itself. In Iowa, politics is personal business. In a place where people expect face time, Palin's book signing event went against the grain.

"Iowans are used to be courted," said Tom Beaumont, chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register. "They are used to meeting candidates, spending some time with them. What she needs to do here is leave a favorable impression."

Attendees said that's exactly what she did. "It was well worth the wait," Robert Tualauleler said.

Palin's book tour continues out West for the next several days before she heads back home to Alaska.

If her supporters have anything to say about it, this won't be the last anyone hears from Sarah Palin.

"I am glad to see that there are women getting in the game," Sexton said. "I would love it if she would run in 2012. That is my fond and hopeful hope."

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