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Where 'going rogue' got its start

An enthusiastic crowd greets Sarah Palin in Michigan, where she first broke with the McCain campaign.

November 19, 2009|James Oliphant

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — Sarah Palin has been called the rock star of the Republican Party, and on Wednesday her supporters treated her like one.

They had begun lining up the night before to see Palin at the first stop on her book-signing tour, shivering in the wind-swept Michigan cold, camped out on the concrete outside a shopping mall.

After the mall opened Wednesday morning, each of the estimated 1,500 people in line were outfitted with orange wristbands, intended to guarantee them a few seconds of face time with the former Alaska governor, who did not arrive at the mall's bookstore until the early evening.

But to those waiting for her to sign copies of her new memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life," those few seconds seemed enough. Some left the signing holding their books aloft like trophies.

Many here fervently want Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee last year, to run for president against Barack Obama in 2012.

The tour has many of the trappings of a campaign. Palin is traveling aboard a brightly painted bus, and is avoiding large urban centers in favor of smaller, more Republican-friendly territory. Today she will sign books in Fort Wayne, Ind., before moving on to Ohio.

The tour began in Michigan for a reason. Palin publicly broke with the McCain campaign's decision last fall to suspend operations in the state and concede it to Obama. That disagreement, she writes, served as her inspiration for her book's title.

Late Wednesday, Palin's bus was greeted by a throng when it pulled up outside the bookstore. She held her young son, Trig, in her arms.

"Thank you so much for showing up for the book," she told the crowd, "so that you can read my words unfiltered."

She compared Michigan to Alaska, saying both have "hunting, fishing and hockey moms."

Among those awaiting her was Laura Lomik, 19, who stood first in line. "It's a conservative revolution," she said.

Lomik, of Brighton, Mich., had arrived at the mall at 9 the evening before, and wore a long-sleeved T-shirt that read "Sarah Palin Is My Hero."

"I would wait a month standing here like this to see her," she said. "She believes in my same principles."

As she spoke, a man began handling out "Palin Power" bumper stickers.

"Palin! Palin! Palin!" the group at the front of the line began to shout. Soon, the chant was echoing up and down the line.

Palin signed books while a recorded soundtrack blared "Barracuda" by the rock group Heart, a reference to the former governor's nickname of Sarah Barracuda.

Lomik emerged with a signed copy. "She's so real," she said.

Some had other reasons for being present.

"I'm looking at it from a historical perspective," said Marine Maj. Carrie Atkinson, 33, stationed at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan. "Whether you like her or not, she's part of U.S. history."

Next to her, Barbara Kaniewski, 51, of Plainfield Township, Mich., was unequivocal. "I'm passionate about Sarah Palin," she said. "She wasn't a princess. She cleans her gun the same way I clean my gun."

Debra Burr, 45, agreed. "I don't want a gun in my home," Burr, of Grand Rapids, said to Kaniewski. "But I want you to be able to have one."

Many spoke with disdain about Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee who delivered Palin from political obscurity and placed her on the national stage. They also complained about the GOP generally.

"I'm not a Republican," Kaniewski said. "I'm a conservative."

And more than a few blamed the national media for portraying Palin in a negative light.

"That's why I'm here," said Sharon Bomgaars, 68, of Norton Shores, Mich. "I want the media to know how many supporters she has. They did nothing but crucify her."

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joliphant@latimes.com

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