As it happened, I was in Prescott, Arizona over Memorial Day weekend and thus got a first-hand view of the current version of the Sarah Palin Show.
A large band of California-based motorcyclists, wearing American-flag and other patriotic gear, was spending Friday night in the town's historic Courthouse Square on their way to Washington, D.C. for July 4 celebrations.
Prescott's Courthouse Square is the place where Arizona national and sometimes statewide politicians declare their official candidacies. Both Sens. John McCain and Barry Goldwater launched their presidential runs there. It is the site of the state's first territorial capital and, coincidentally, was the site of the Goldwater family's department store.
Prescott itself has a substantial population of retirees and counter-culture folk from California and the Midwest. It is the site of liberal Prescott College. However, the city's mayor and council, the county supervisors, and all local judges are bedrock Republicans, reflecting the politics of the city's longer-term population.
Courthouse Square was swarming with partying locals, the motorcyclists, and tourists Friday. Sighted in the crowd was immigration tough guy Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpayo, up from Phoenix. Then lights and TV trucks materialized. There was Sarah Palin, wearing western gear, including an expensive cowboy hat. She recently bought a new place in North Scottsdale. She proceeded up a stairway to one of the town's famous saloons and began pumping hands.
The comments from people who were there mainly were around the themes that "she is beautiful" and "she is really nice." A friend of ours, the insurgent/reform candidate for mayor, running against the good-ole-boy GOP incumbent, approached Palin and asked that she sign her mayoral petititon.
Palin did so (even though, as a non-resident, her signature would of course be disqualified). Palin also offered to campaign for our friend and help her raise money — no doubt not knowing that she was a political and cultural liberal running on a throw-the-rascals-out platform. TV and other cameras documented Palin's signing of the petition and the big hug she gave our candidate friend.
The photo already is making the rounds of the local political community and will be used in the mayoral challenger's messaging directed toward a strong Tea Party contingent in the city.
The whole episode, I thought, pretty much defined what we can expect from Palin in the weeks ahead, whether or not she declares her own candidacy. She will be shaking hands, making nice, mingling in crowds wherever she finds them, and generally generating populist support for herself. Had she known she was helping the local GOP mayor's arch-enemy, I thought, she probably would not care. She was "in the moment," pleasing a sister, and riding the wave.