SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Turns out it didn’t take camping out overnight to ensure getting an autograph Sunday from 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on her book tour.
Two women from Moville, Iowa, turned out at 4 p.m. Saturday, 14 hours before wristbands for rights to get an autograph were handed out by Barnes & Noble Booksellers personnel at 6 a.m. Sunday. The duo got their autograph but the long wait really wasn’t necessary.
People who showed up at 1:30 p.m — just as Palin arrived about 90 minutes late to promote “Going Rogue: An American Life” — were able to hop in at the end of the line and get an autograph by 3 p.m., just before the former Alaska governor left. Palin arrived late after visiting wounded service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., earlier Sunday.
Among the late arrivals was Kenny Wright, of Dunlap, Iowa, who ended up being 555th of the 625 people to receive an autograph in the 90 minutes that Palin signed her autobiography, which debuted three weeks ago. Wright journeyed the 70 or so miles to see a Christmas pageant performed by her grandchildren, heard about the Palin event and had an autograph within 75 minutes.
“I’ve got friends who have been in line since 7 this morning,” Wright said.
None of the Palin fans resented the time spent in line, and several said they hope the conservative Palin pursues the presidency in 2012. Most happily shared stories of nabbing the maximum two autographed copies of the hot-selling book. Palin pushed about six people per minute through the line, or about one person every 10 seconds.
The 17th and 18th people in line were Billie and Steve Boatman, of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, who arrived at 11:15 p.m. Saturday. “She said ‘Hi’ to everyone and asked everyone their name and thanked them for coming,” Billie Boatman said.
Said Steve Boatman, “We responded to her and thanked her very much for coming. She responded, ‘God bless you.’ ”
Steve Boatman said he expects Palin to run for president, but not in 2012.
“She needs a little bit more experience. Being the vice president would have been perfect because then she could have slid into being president. ... She would have had that background and experience. That’s all she needs,” he said.
The crowd at the book store reached about 500 by noon, the time Palin was supposed to have started signing.
Among the people there was Gary Chiero of Columbus, Ohio, who goes by the moniker PalinMan.
Chiero wore white pants with red lettering down the side reading “Drill Baby Drill” in reference to the summer 2008 Republican chant for more domestic oil drilling. On the back of his shirt were “Top 10 Reasons To Stay Up All Night To Meet Sarah Palin,” which included No. 9: “To Meet Our Future President,” and No. 1: “To Hear Her Say You Betcha!!”
There were no protesters at the event.
Laura Dendinger, of Coleridge, Neb., about 50 miles west of Sioux City, brought
16-year-old daughter Bethany Barelman to the event. Dendinger is an independent who voted for Barack Obama a year ago, but said she wanted to see Palin because she thinks women are underrepresented in politics. Like many, they bought a copy of “Going Rogue” on the way into the venue.
“I’ll probably read it on the ride home,” Barelman said.
Palin flew into Sioux Gateway Airport on a corporate airplane from Washington, D.C. She arrived at the mall at 1:34 p.m. in a Chevrolet Suburban, and her “Going Rogue” bus with family members and others pulled up 10 minutes later. Palin stepped out, waved to the 50 people who stood in the 20-degree temperature and yelled, “See you guys in the store” before entering a few seconds later.
Palin didn’t grant media interviews, and the place in the store where she was signing books was blocked off by black curtains.
People in line were told to have cell phones turned off and not to take a picture of Palin. However, a camera flash from Palin’s personal photographer went off frequently, and those who got an autograph also received a card saying they could order pictures for a fee.
Palin left at 3:20 p.m., again giving short comments as she hopped on the bus headed for a late- afternoon book-signing event 85 miles north in Sioux Falls.
She shook hands for a few seconds, and left her presidential aspirations vague, even while name checking the state that holds the first presidential caucus in the selection process.
“I don’t know when I’m coming back to Iowa,” Palin said.
(The Sioux City Journal is a Lee Enterprises newspaper.)
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EARLIER STORY: SIOUX CITY — Sandra Little expects to see history in the making.
The 31-year-old lifelong Sioux City resident started preparing Thursday to get in line Saturday night at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, is making her lone Iowa stop there with a book signing at noon today.
“Right when I heard she was coming, I had Barnes & Nobles on the phone. Was the first customer to call them because I was just so excited,” said Little, who thinks the former Alaska governor should be the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee.
The enthusiastic Palin fan is one of thousands of faithful supporters who have eagerly awaited Palin’s best-selling memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life.” As Palin’s book tour has woven through small towns and cities, from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Springfield, Mo., to Fayetteville, Ark., her fans have turned out in droves, often roaring, “Run, Sarah, run!”
Yet, dropping the name Sarah Palin doesn’t always draw such a passionate, positive reaction — or calls for a presidential quest.
To her detractors, Palin is “Caribou Barbie” — a caricature and an empty skirt they’re glad didn’t end up in the White House. They think she is an extremist espousing beliefs outside the mainstream, as evidenced by her assertion to a radio show host on Thursday that voters “rightfully” have questions about the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate.
But to her fans, Palin’s direct talk, conservative bona fides and humble background are refreshing. They also love the way she clearly and simply espouses conservative principles while verbally abusing liberals, the Washington, D.C., establishment and the mainstream media with a wink and a smile.
Steve Jewett of Sloan, Iowa, became jazzed about Palin when he saw her speech to the Republican National Convention in 2008. He likes her stance on smaller government and lower taxes and has read excerpts of “Going Rogue.”
“She’s not embarrassed to speak her mind. She 100 percent believes what she says,” he said. “With the perception that is out there, when you say ‘Sarah Palin,’ you get the same look: rolled eyes and it’s just like, ‘What’s she doing?’ But she is a very capable woman.”
Still, even among those like Jewett who are drawn to the Republican star, there are underlying concerns about her readiness to step into the White House should she run in 2012.
A Gallup poll showed Republicans are more likely to say they would seriously consider voting for Palin as 2012 president (65 percent) than saying she is qualified for the job (58 percent).
The Des Moines Register polled Iowans Nov. 8-11 and found Palin is viewed favorably by 68 percent of Republicans, which trailed only former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (70 percent) among potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates. Yet, 24 percent of Iowa Republicans said they view Palin unfavorably, compared with 12 percent for Huckabee.
South Dakota Rep. Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes, which is adjacent to Sioux City, said Palin is popular because she is representative of a cross-section of America. She’s a woman, an outdoors enthusiast, a strong conservative and she has a child with Down syndrome.
Yet, Lederman said traits that make Palin appealing may also harm her chances of being taken seriously as a 2012 contender.
“(A) reason why she is popular is because she speaks frankly about issues, she doesn’t hold things back,” Lederman said. “That is probably one of her downfalls, too, is that she is very quick to respond with how she feels about issues, sometimes without thinking about them.”
When she does speak, she appeals to the vocal contingent of the party that helped organize the Tea Party protests earlier this year and who came out in force to protest at health-care town halls this summer, according to Sioux County Republican Party Chairman Mark Lundberg.
“She has been kind of a renegade against doing business as normal,” said Lundberg, a leader in one of Iowa’s most conservative counties. “I think that is attractive to people who have a little slant that maybe government isn’t the best way to pursue the best outcomes. She’s kind of a populist, comes from a common, humble background.”
Her book tour has helped cement her status as one of the party’s shining stars, Lundberg said. “She is just a star, in celebrity status right now,” he said.
Yet, although Lundberg acknowledges Palin is popular with many social and fiscal conservatives, he isn’t convinced she has the political muscle to launch a legitimate, well-financed campaign for the presidency.
“I don’t know how effective a political leader she would be, but I’m a strong capitalist, and I think she has a good opportunity to make some good money for her family, so good for her,” Lundberg said.
Woodbury County Republican Party Chairman Brian Rosener agrees it’s premature to label her the 2012 GOP frontrunner. But he said Palin’s undeniable appeal among staunch conservatives shouldn’t be underestimated.
“I think a lot of us feel that the conservative movement is not about a person, it is not about political gain, it is not about the self-indulgence that some of our elected officials seem to be in the middle of. It is about saving America,” Rosener said.
And if Sioux City Palin fan Little has her way, it will be Sarah doing the saving. That’s why she made plans early to get a glimpse of her political hero.
“She is a strong woman — she’s trying to raise her family, she’s trying to take care of business. And, you know, I think she looks good, too,” said Little, who plans to get both of her copies of “Going Rogue” signed today. “(This) is one opportunity I don’t want to miss out on. If I have to stand in line in the cold, then I’ll have to get the full experience.”