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Palin visits Spirit Lake

Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe Republican 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin shakes hands with a purchaser of her new book during a Dec. 2 at the Spirit Lake, Iowa, Walmart.

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa -- It wasn't just any old holiday season shopping day Thursday at the Spirit Lake Walmart.

Politician-author-reality show star Sarah Palin, in the midst of a nine day, cross-country tour promoting her new book, "America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag," attracted a large crowd to the Spirit Lake store, with hundreds waiting on line for a chance to have Palin sign their copy of the former Alaska governor's follow-up to "Going Rogue: An American Life."

The 2008 Republican Party's vice presidential nominee was scheduled to sign books for at least 1,000 people with special wristbands between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. If all the individuals with wristbands made it through the line and time remained until 2 p.m., Palin was to continue signing books.

Media representatives on hand for the book-signing event were prohibited from asking questions of Palin. They were escorted in small groups to a small area behind a cash register -- a few feet from where Palin signed books and shook hands with people who had waited in line -- and were permitted to take still photos and video for a 10-minute period.

Palin, who was also scheduled to sign books in Carmel, Ind., later Thursday, made friendly, brief conversation with several book-buyers. One man who had his booked signed told her, "Don't do that vice presidential thing next time. You should run for president." Palin's reply: "Thank you so much for the encouragement."

The question of what Palin will do -- or not do -- politically -- has been a primary question of pundits across the nation since she and GOP presidential candidate John McCain lost the 2008 presidential election. Palin said last month she was considering a 2012 run for the presidency, but has insisted in recent weeks that her current tour is not related to politics.

Koral Rosendahl, of Estherville, Iowa, was one person in the Walmart throng of autograph seekers Thursday.

"I enjoy politics and just decided it was an opportunity to meet another influential person," said Rosendahl, who had a pair of copies of "America by Heart" waiting to be signed. "I'm an independent, and I'm interested in whatever she has to say."

Rosendahl didn't have to wait long in the fast-moving line, as she arrived at Walmart around noon and was nearing the front line only about 40 minutes later. Others, like Bailey Fowler of Spirit Lake, had to be more patient.

"I was here three hours ago, at 9:30," said Fowler as she was leaving Walmart. "I like her and figured if she was in Spirit Lake, I might as well come see her."

Fowler counts herself as one of Palin's many supporters who are hoping for a presidential bid.

"I think a lot of people would enjoy it if she ran for president," she said. "I like her, and I'm a Republican,"

Greg Fowler of LeMars, Iowa, said he enjoyed a short conversation with Palin.

"She asked my name ... and I said, 'You're shorter in person,' and she laughed," he said. As for a potential Palin presidential run: "It's a terrible job. I hope she doesn't have to do that."

Jan Coon, store manager at Spirit Lake's Walmart, said people began lining up for Palin's book-signing event at 8 p.m. Wednesday night. He was coy about whether his celebrity's visit was translating into extra-big business.

"We're excited to have Sarah in our store," Coon said.

Palin also met with local and political officials Thursday morning prior to the Walmart visit. Her Spirit Lake stop came just five days after a book signing event in Des Moines.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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