Palin: Alaska tour is thanks, not goodbye
As governor prepares to end job, she remains mum about future plans
Gov. Sarah Palin walks through the buffet line at bill-signing ceremony in Unalakleet, Alaska, on July 17.
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Matthew Daly / AP
UNALAKLEET, Alaska - She was greeted like a rock star in Unalakleet, a fishing village on the Bering Sea. She danced with Eskimos in Kotzebue. And she watched grizzlies at a wildlife sanctuary on the Kenai Peninsula.
In all, Sarah Palin has been on eight trips outside her Anchorage base since announcing her resignation two weeks ago. Is this a farewell tour, the start of a possible presidential campaign for 2012?
Palin insists it isn't, although she still won't say what plans she has after she steps down as Alaska governor on July 26, with 18 months left to her first term.
"I am Alaskan. I've grown up here and I'm going to remain in Alaska," she told The Associated Press in an interview. "It's not farewell, it's more like thanks for letting me be here and I'll see you soon."
Looking forward to being private citizen
Palin has largely avoided the media limelight in the past two weeks and dodged questions about her future plans. But she hints she has a bigger role in mind, and she plans to launch her new platform by speaking her mind on the social networking site Twitter. She used Twitter on Sunday to talk about packing up the governor's mansion. On her Twitter page, she wrote: "Todd & I r packing JNU house today; looking thru Piper's kindergarten schoolwork here reminds how quickly X flies; she enters 3rd grd in fall."
Palin said in her AP interview she is eager to begin life as a private citizen.
"Once I am 'Sarah Palin, Alaskan,' I can really call it like I see it," she said.
Palin waves off any talk of running for president.
"I look forward to continuing to work for Alaska and for energy independence and for the contribution that Alaska could and should be making to allow our nation to be more secure and more prosperous," she said.
Some have speculated she plans to build on her near celebrity status as a conservative talk show host, perhaps for Fox News. If her reception Friday in Unalakleet is any indication, she has a strong base of support.
More than 100 people packed a community center and bingo hall to greet the outgoing governor as she signed a bill continuing state subsidies for rural electricity.
The town, known locally as the place where the East wind blows, was an unlikely stop during Palin's final days. A remote collection of unpaved streets on the Bering Sea, the town is so remote that it is only reachable by plane and most residents get around by all-terrain vehicle or by foot. There are few cars.
Connecting with Alaskans
But this is what Palin loves best: Reaching out to Alaskans, no matter how remote. She barely had time to eat lunch — king crab and salmon and a barrage of homemade desserts — as families surged toward her, trying to shake her hand and get an autograph. Pictures of the governor were not enough. Residents wanted to talk to her and pose with her, even as an aide tried in vain to shield the governor and then get her to leave quietly.
Palin smiled through it all, basking in the attention. She nodded sympathetically as a man told her of a relative in Iraq. She hugged a mother whose baby has Down syndrome, as does Palin's youngest child Trig. She signed every post card and datebook thrust in front of her.