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Palin's on the road again, with Hoosiers in sight

By Jason Horowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 2009

FORT WAYNE, IND. -- Tina Andreadis doesn't have much experience in Republican presidential politics.

But as Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" national book tour delivers stump speeches, long lines of sign-bearing supporters ("Ft. Wayne Loves Sarah Palin") and hyperbolic media scrutiny throughout the country, the HarperCollins publicity director is taking on the role of campaign manager.

"I am on the bus," Andreadis says.

On Thursday morning, that campaign-style coach displaying Palin's face, Facebook address, Twitter alias and SarahPAC information sped toward Meijer, a superstore in Fort Wayne for the second stop in an all-out publicity push that is also strengthening the former vice presidential candidate's ties to her political base.

And the Manhattan-based Andreadis is helping organize it all.

Andreadis, whose Facebook page reveals she is a fan of Arianna Huffington, Barack Obama, and, yes, Palin, spent the afternoon directly to the Alaskan's right as she signed book after book and posed for picture after picture in the store's decor section. Palin, 45, wore a black jacket, black pencil skirt, purple boots and an unwavering smile. Andreadis, 39, wore chunky glasses, long brunet curls in a ponytail, a cream-colored sweater, jeans, silver sneakers and a look of exhaustion. Having joined HarperCollins about four years ago, after a stint with Time Warner Books, Andreadis lives and works in New York. Her past projects have included publicity for the novelist Michael Chabon and talk-show personality Steve Harvey.

"I've never worked on anything of this scale," she says.

By the metrics of this particular campaign, Palin has been an unvarnished success.

Andreadis says that about 300,000 books were sold in the first day alone and that an additional 300,000 books have been printed after an initial batch of 1.5 million. She says the tour schedule has been and will be intense because "what the governor wanted to do was spread around the country as much as possible."

According to Andreadis, Palin and the publicity team at Harper developed the road map for the book tour "based on where her fans are and where we thought we could sell the most books." She says that Palin clearly had wanted to return to Michigan, where she kicked off the campaign Wednesday, because, as she made clear in the memoir, she felt the McCain campaign had abandoned the state.

Andreadis says there's a short window before bookstores stop holding signings because they gum up the busy holiday shopping period.

"That's why we are squeezing events in," Andreadis says, noting that the day's second event is in Noblesville, Ind., a town traditionally far off publishers' radar.

Devoted fans

In the hours before Palin's arrival, a line of about 1,000 people snaked around cinder blocks in the store's empty garden center. Employees prepared Meijer apple juice, Meijer nondairy creamer and Meijer sugar cookies to help keep customers fed and warm. Television cameras set up at the end of an aisle lined with Christmas trees, stockings and "fuzzy stacking snowman heads" ($49).

Dennis Cline, a 67-year-old retiree from nearby Yorktown, says he and his wife arrived at 2 a.m. Thursday and slept on the floor under the Christmas wreaths in the "seasonal" aisle.

He says he had tried to see Palin last fall, during the presidential campaign, but the arena where he had hoped to see her had reached capacity. He says the book signing seemed more like a campaign event than he had expected.

"We didn't think there'd be all these cameras," he says.

Mark Meijer, a member of the family that owns the superstores, came by in a business suit to shake the hands of people waiting.

He didn't know exactly how the event came about, though he says HarperCollins and Palin apparently "see the Meijer stores as a good fit. Books and media are a big part of our 100,000 items. It's a bookstore with a capital B."

As he paused in front of the curtained-off signing booth under a sign that read "Lower With Price Drop," Meijer expressed some disappointment that Palin kicked off her tour at a Barnes & Noble in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Meijer is headquartered.

"I guess there is politics beyond what I can imagine in the publishing business," Meijer says.

The advance team

As Andreadis and Palin approached the store, HarperCollins already had a man on the ground.

"You need to talk to Joe Jarabek, he's the guy in the navy pinstriped suit without a tie who looks like Fonzarelli," Todd Weer, an employee at Meijer, said when asked about a representative from HarperCollins. "You know -- the Fonz."

Jarabek identified himself only as an advance man hired by the publishing house. (He's also a Republican operative who worked as Iowa state director for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.) Like an experienced campaign staffer, he deferred all questions to his manager. Andreadis emphasized that she is merely part of a team of marketers putting the tour together, and that since Palin was no longer a public official, they had contracted security and much of the advance work out to a company called NorthStar Strategies. She declined to answer any questions that she determined to infringe on her client's privacy, such as who from the Palin camp, besides the former governor's baby son Trig, rode on the bus with her.

Palin and Andreadis arrived at the superstore about noon. For three uninterrupted hours, Palin applied a loopy black scrawl to about a thousand books while Andreadis handed the hardcovers back to supporters. Outside the curtain, Audrey Queckboerner, a local candidate for state representative did the bidding of her local GOP by handing out Palin bookmarks. (Printed on them: "Thanks for going rogue with me today! Let's stay in touch and stand up for our nation together!") Jarabek attended to duties like informing Meijer store managers of how many employees could get into a group photo with Palin.

"I've got a hard number," he says. "Fifteen."

At 3:30 Palin signed her last book, and the team slipped out the back curtain and walked past Lego Power Miners, Smithsonian Diggin' Up Dinosaurs puzzles and bike racks in the toy section.

"Hey, guys," Palin says to supporters cheering through plastic bins stacked as a boundary. "How are you?"

The Lynyrd Skynyrd-heavy atmospheric music was selected by the Palin team, says Frank Guglielmi, who handled press for the Meijer store. "This whole thing feels like a campaign stop," he says.

"It's definitely a HarperCollins tour," Andreadis argues. "Not a Sarah Palin campaign."

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