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Sarah Palin's bus tour rolls on to Philadelphia

May 31, 2011|By Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times
(Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Philadelphia — Palinpalooza, Day 3: Don't even ask. It's the same answer every time: She hasn't made up her mind yet.

But Tuesday morning, Sarah Palin's bus tour had all the trappings of a presidential campaign swing — a surprise visit to a coffee shop, a tour of some famous American landmarks and an increasing intensity on the part of the growing number of journalists who are following her or intercepting her along the way.

By the time Palin's big bus pulled into Philadelphia around noon for a tour of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, a mob of reporters was waiting for her.

"Watch the children! Don't step on the children," a man yelled as the scrum jostled a group of schoolchildren on a field trip. She was ushered into both buildings, and the crowd was left behind in the wilting heat.

Her bus left a short time later and was believed to be heading to New York.

The day started in typical fashion for this unconventional road trip. No schedule, no announcements, just a bunch of journalists trying to read tea leaves by watching where the bus goes. But the former Alaska governor had slipped out of her Gettysburg hotel early, in a sedan, for a quiet tour of the Civil War battlefield.

Later, as the bus headed to Philadelphia, it stopped in the town of Dillsburg, and Palin's entourage stepped out for some coffee. Palin joined a trio of customers at their table and chatted about economic policy and job creation. One of the men phoned his wife and put her on with Palin, who promised to stay at Coffee Express until the wife arrived, which she did about five minutes later.

In the last two days, as she moved from Washington to Maryland to Pennsylvania, Palin has delighted in showing her knowledge of and interest in American history and has seemed comfortable answering policy questions.

When a customer announced that his birthday was Dec. 16, "which is the Boston Tea Party," Palin replied, "Awww. All right! Party like it's 1773."

After her visit with the coffee-shop patrons, she said she didn't think it was appropriate to have a deadline for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan.

"I've said along with Sen. McCain and so many others, the conditions on the ground need to dictate when our troops start coming home instead of having some kind of political decision being made. … We show the enemy our playbook -- that doesn't make any sense. It's not good war strategy."

Although her husband, Todd, generally avoids the press, he spent a few minutes chatting with reporters at the coffee shop.

He is often said to be his wife's closest advisor but said he's leaving the decision about whether to run for president to her.

"It's up to her what she decides to do," he said. "I am not pushing her either way. It's her decision. There are pros and cons, of course. But this country, we have to get back on the right track."

Todd Palin also knocked down reports that the point of the trip was to give the Palin family the opportunity to experience what a presidential campaign would be like.

"I don't know where they got that from -- 'test run' for the family," he said. "This family has been tested. ... Her career and every step in her career is another step for the family. ... These kids grew up around a mayor of a small town. Local politics is in your face every day."

He also took issue with how his wife is depicted in the press. "People talk about 'Oh, she just got plucked up out of Wasilla.' You need to look at her career."

Palin also said he didn't think they would invite reporters aboard the bus for interviews, the way McCain did on his Straight Talk Express, which helped burnish his persona.

"It's a different scenario," he said. "She is employed by Fox."

But, he added, "she's talking to you guys, you are getting a lot, right?"

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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