DES MOINES — Sarah Palin tantalized supporters on the eve of her appearance at a tea party rally by telling reporters “there’s room for more” candidates in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. But she gave no hint as to whether she was talking about herself.
The former Alaska governor was mobbed by enthusiastic supporters who chanted, “Run, Sarah, run!” when she arrived at a Des Moines suburb Friday evening. Many had come hundreds or thousands of miles to attend Saturday rally in Indianola and many believe that Palin will become a candidate.
Aides have suggested that Palin will not make her intentions clear on Saturday and what she said Friday night did nothing to clarify the picture. Asked about the current field of candidates, she said she was happy with them, but added, “I think there’s room for more, though, because spirited debate and more competition will allow an even better discourse and more rigorous discourse that the public deserves.”
With that, she and her husband Todd were swallowed up by the crowd inside the restaurant. For more than half an hour, she posed for photographs, signed autographs and chatted with supporters who had been brought together by the group Conservatives4Palin.
She did not speak, but Peter Singleton, who has spent considerable time in Iowa promoting a Palin candidacy, did. Saying the group’s mission “is literally to save this great nation,” Singleton told the crowd of several hundred people, “There is no one who has the political courage or vision of this woman.”
The crowd included two brothers who flew out from San Diego to see Palin and would support her if she runs. Cheryl Schnapp of Arvada, Colo., said if Palin doesn’t run, “We’ll write her in. It will be the biggest write-in campaign ever.”
Cal Kyllonen came from Elko, Nevada, because he thought it was “the beginning of her getting ready” to become a candidate. Asked how convinced he was that she will run, he said, “99.9999 percent.” He said he would be disappointed if she decides not to, “but she’s still a great lady.”
Jeff Timmons, who is unemployed, used frequent flyer miles to come from Washington state to see Palin. “I hope she does run, but it’s completely up to her,” he said, adding, “She’s given a number of hints that she’s going to run … I don’t see how she’s not going to run if she’s here.”
Mindy Dodge of Omaha said she had tears in her eyes when she first heard Palin speak in 2008 and has lost none of her enthusiasm. “Sarah Palin is amazing,” she said. “She is right on policies. She’s got common sense. We’ve got the Washington establishment that has destroyed this country because of good old boy entitlements. We need a change and she’s that change. She’s the person who can make it happen.”
A report Friday by Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politics said Palin would attack “crony capitalism” and the “permanent political class” in her speech on Saturday.
The “crony capitalism” was described as a veiled attack against Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has been criticized for handing out favors to political supporters. Perry’s candidacy has attracted support from followers of the tea party movement, which Palin would count as her natural constituency should she become a candidate.