Palin Handlers Try To Keep Her From Talking

Gov. Sarah Palin signs autographs for the crowd in New Mexico on Sunday.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin signs autographs for the crowd in New Mexico on Sunday.

It has become increasingly clear in these final days of the presidential race that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is bucking the McCain campaign handlers in order to position herself for a 2012 Repubican presidential run for the White House.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – These days, Gov. Sarah Palin seems like a candidate trying to wriggle free of her handlers.

On Sunday night, she twice took questions from reporters, the first time on an airport tarmac without her press staff’s knowledge.

After landing in Colorado Springs late Sunday, Ms. Palin marched over to a local television crew and began answering questions on camera, sending the traveling press corps sprinting in pursuit, and her press staff scrambling.

“Get Tracey,” one campaign aide barked into his headset, calling for Tracey Schmitt, Ms. Palin’s ever-watchful spokeswoman, who rushed over to supervise the impromptu press conference. (Ms. Schmitt, looking distressed, tried several times to cut it off with a terse “Thank you!” in between questions, to no avail.)

Later that night, at a quick stop at an ice cream shop in Colorado Springs, Ms. Palin was asked if she could answer “just one question.” She smiled brightly in response. “Sure!” she said, and went on to answer five questions.

Since joining the Republican ticket as Senator John McCain’s running mate, Ms. Palin has still not held an official full-length press conference, and for the first month as the vice-presidential nominee, rarely acknowledged reporters. She gave several television interviews, including one to Katie Couric of CBS, which even Ms. Palin described as “less than successful.”

Early on, reporters following Ms. Palin grumbled over their limited access to the candidate. On the campaign trail, Ms. Palin is accompanied by several former staff members of the Bush White House, including Ms. Schmitt and Chris Edwards, who handles advance work.

On “Saturday Night Live” last weekend, the opening sketch was a fake news conference, playing off the perception of Ms. Palin as inaccessible to reporters, and under the tight control of her nervous press staff. (Her fake press secretary at the “SNL” news conference ordered reporters not to take notes or use recording devices.)

But in the last few days, the real Ms. Palin appeared to be bucking her staff and answering questions with more confidence than before.

On Friday, she wandered to the back of her campaign plane and chatted briefly with reporters, defending herself from Republican pundits who said she is unqualified to be commander in chief.

“If I felt I was not ready I would never have said yes,” she said. “I want to take on this responsibility, this challenge, this opportunity to run for vice president as his partner.”

On Sunday night, she criticized the Republican National Committee’s use of robocalls.

“If I called all the shots, and if I could wave a magic wand,” Ms. Palin said, “I would be sitting at a kitchen table with more and more Americans, talking to them about our plan to get the economy back on track and winning the war, and not having to rely on the old conventional ways of campaigning that includes those robocalls, and includes spending so much money on the television ads that, I think, is kind of draining out there in terms of Americans’ attention span.”

And she sharpened the criticism that Senator Barack Obama’s tax policies amounted to “socialism.”

“There are socialist principles to that, yes,” Ms. Palin said of his plan. “Taking more from a small business or small business owners or from a hard working family, and then redistributing that money according to a politician’s priorities. There are hints of socialism in there.”

A reporter who transcribed her comments for a pool report later Sunday evening sounded his approval. “In her continuing evolution from the least accessible to the most accessible of the four candidates, Palin took questions from your pooler at the Coldstone Creamery in Colorado Springs.”

Palin Handlers Try To Keep Her From Talking


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