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Palin draws enthusiastic crowd of admirers for Iowa visit
SPIRIT LAKE — Seven-year-old Grace Klatt wore a toothy grin with her winter hat.
She was exuberant, bouncy even, fresh from a meeting with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Should Palin run for president?
“Yes!” exclaimed Grace, interjecting her youthful conviction into an interview The Iowa Independent was conducting with her mom, Jennie (Troutman) Klatt of Spencer.
The mother-and-daughter duo were among an estimated 700 people at the Walmart Supercenter in Spirit Lake Thursday for Palin’s northwest Iowa stop on a tour to promote her book, “America By Heart.” Melissa Stephens, assistant Spirit Lake Walmart manager, said the store sold about 1,00 copies of Palin’s book in the last few days, and handed out 563 wristbands for readers interested in getting their copies signed.
“I know we let some people in later on,” she said.
Store manager Jan Coon said people started arriving about 8 p.m. Wednesday, 15 hours before Palin’s book-signing started.
“We stayed the night in the store,” said Jennie Klatt, who teaches physical education in Spencer. “We knew that the enthusiasm was a lot.”
Klatt said she admires the courage of Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate.
“She’s willing to stand up for her principles at any cost to herself,” Klatt said.
Klatt said Palin connected exceptionally well with the many kids mothers had in tow for the book-signing.
“She just said she (Grace) is the cutest thing she’s seen so far today,” Klatt said.
Klatt thinks more Americans should read Palin’s books, delve into her record, rather than accept what the media churn out about the potential 2012 presidential candidate.
“Because of the coverage she’s gotten in the media you don’t hear about her accomplishments,” Klatt said.
She said Palin supporters are motivated by political attacks on the former Alaska governor.
“You’re way more likely to get out and support her because of the hideous attacks,” Klatt said.
Cindy Chapman, a home health-care professional from Emmetsburg, got her wristband at 6:30 a.m.
“I’ve always admired her,” Chapman said. “I think she’s a real person. She speaks her mind.”
Chapman has a child with Down’s Snydrome, as does Palin, and connects with that. But she doesn’t think Palin will run for president.
“I just don’t think she will,” Chapman said. “At this point in time I don’t think she will.”
Angela Hasek, 17, a senior in high school at Fairmont, Minn., skipped class to visit Palin and get the book signed.
“Obviously, it’s not every day that you get to meet a politician as amazing as Sarah Palin,” Hasek said, adding: “She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and she will take crap from pretty much anyone, but it doesn’t hold her down.”
Andrea Betts, also 17 and a friend of Hasek’s in Fairmont, was thrilled with the hug she received from Palin in the book-signing line.
“I am so excited,” Betts said. “I am just so giddy. It was just such a great experience. She’s very inspiring to me. I just think that she’s out there. She’s just such a great role model. And the things she says are just so down to earth when she has so many reasons to be just so high above everyone else.”
Rick Kalsow, a limousine service operator in Arnolds Park, was leaving the store with his book signed after about 2-1/2 hours in the Walmart.
“I’ll tell you what. I like to hunt and fish,” Kalsow said. “And Sarah’s a big hunter-fisherman, lives up in Alaska. She’s pro-gun. I voted for her.”
Kalsow, a Republican, thinks Palin related well to western Iowans. In fact he invited her to go hunting with him in northwest Iowa or South Dakota.
“I tell you what, she’s even better looking than the cover of this book,” Kalsow said. “I mean she is a very, very fine-looking woman. It was great fun to meet her.”
Does Palin have a chance, should she enter the Iowa Caucuses?
“She’s got a chance,” Kalsow said. “She’s a hell of a nice-looking woman and she’s smart.”
Nancy Vierkant of Spirit Lake, a stay-at-home mother who is active with the Dickinson County Republican Women, came with her 9-year-old daughter, Maddie.
“She is a huge Sarah Palin fan,” Nancy Vierkant said. “We’re Republicans in our house so we talk about her a lot.”
Maddie was the one in the family who asked her mom to go to the event. Vierkant said she would urge Palin to enter the race and thinks she has a workable base in western Iowa.
“I would love to see her try it,” Vierkant, 39, said. “I think she’s a strong woman. She’s got great views, and she does have a following. I think she might have a little bit of a fight, but I think there’s things she can overcome to get there.”
Diana Pritts, a staff member at the Spirit Lake Public Library, brought the lending copy of the book for Palin to sign.
“She’s more beautiful in person than she was on TV,” said Pritts, who lives in Estherville. “I’m probably the biggest Sarah Palin supporter at the library.”
A self-described “avid” Fox News viewer, Pritts said Palin is no doubt divisive, a fact that will affect any presidential ambitions.
“She’s going to have to get a lot of haters to love her,” Pritts said.
Several people who talked with The Iowa Independent at the store Thursday said they were devoted followers of Palin’s reality show on TLC, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which airs on Sunday nights.
“I wholeheartedly follow her program on TLC,” Pritts said. “She’s an amazing woman.”
Palin fielded no formal questions from the media during the Walmart event. Her fans lined up in the apparel section and made their way behind a curtained area where Palin quickly signed books and made small talk, taking extra time with those who had kids. Walmart media-relations representatives firmly instructed reporters to refrain from asking questions as they were escorted in waves to a photo-shoot table just feet away from the book-signing.
In the wave before Iowa Independent, CNN reporter Jim Acosta broke ranks.
“Any chance you’re any closer to a decision on running for president?” he asked.
“Not any closer yet, no,” Palin said.
Walmart staff pulled the CNN crew from the event.