By James Hohmann
Sunday, December 6, 2009; C04
Sarah Palin brought a taste of Alaska with her to a Saturday afternoon book signing at BJ's Wholesale Club in Fairfax. After early drizzle and rain, flurries began in earnest about 8:30 a.m.
"I wanted to feel like I was at home," Palin said as she walked into the store and the first snowfall of the season dusted a crowd of about 2,200 people who came to meet her.
The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee signed copies of her memoir, "Going Rogue." The weather dampened planned protests and probably deterred all but the most ardent Palin supporters. She was accompanied by her parents and husband Todd.
At the front of the long line to greet Palin was Ron Wolf, 68, of Sterling. The retired auto service shop foreman arrived at the store at noon Friday. "She's for the Constitution," said Wolf, who wants Palin to run for president in 2012. "She's for everything I'm for. She's got backbone."
Wolf, who had waited 23 hours to meet Palin, froze when he finally got his turn.
"I sometimes draw a blank," he said, "and this was one of those times."
Palin's visit to Northern Virginia came as the state's Republicans gathered in Williamsburg on Saturday to celebrate their November election victories. Republicans swept Virginia's top three statewide offices and added six seats to the party's majority in the House of Delegates. Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell even carried Fairfax County, the state's largest jurisdiction, which had delivered strong majorities to President Obama and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, both Democrats.
Palin fan Greg Williams, 46, of Springfield said he hasn't felt so strongly about a politician since Ronald Reagan. He spent Friday night in a tent rigged with a tarp to keep out the rain, to make sure he got his chance to see her Saturday. He joined several other campers until about 7:30 a.m., when Fairfax County police made them break down their tents so people near the front of the line could cross the street and stand closer to the store entrance.
A BJ's employee offered mini muffins to people waiting in line, but few accepted. "You'd have to take off your gloves" to open them, one man said.
Many Palin supporters said they consider themselves more conservative than Republican. They said they see party leaders as out of touch, selling out to win votes.
"We're average people," Williams said. "We work Monday through Friday to pay our bills and put food on our tables. That's who she is."
After greeting Palin, he handed a note to Palin's father, Chuck Heath, offering to help with a 2012 campaign and asking him to make sure his daughter received the note.
Williams said he loves that Palin is not afraid to criticize other Republicans.
"That's why the political establishment is so concerned," he said. "They can't control her."
Theresa Danner, 47, of Burke brought her 10-year-old daughter, Maria, who has Down syndrome, to the event. Danner hugged Palin's son Trig, who also has Down syndrome. Palin rose from the table and hugged the girl and posed for a photo with the Danners by a Christmas tree.
"I feel a kinship with her on many levels -- politically and personally," Danner said. "I just relate to her."