ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who came to the friendly turf of her home state for her first campaign venture without John McCain, told supporters at a farewell rally Saturday that she'd return at the end of the campaign.
"We've got a little travel coming the next 52 days," Palin, Alaska's governor, told a cheering crowd of more than 2,000 gathered at the city convention center. "But I'll be home in November and I'd really like to bring my friend," she said, referring to McCain, the Republican presidential candidate.
To critics who question whether her experience as a small-town mayor and as governor has prepared her to serve as vice president, she said: "We're small enough to be family, and we can put aside political differences to work as a family."
Asking for prayers and support for the victims of Hurricane Ike, she told supporters that "it's time for Americans to pull together and to help where the need is greatest."
Palin did not mention McCain's Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, in her 20-minute speech before leaving Alaska. Instead, she used much of her earlier campaign material to promote McCain and herself as reformers.
She also championed her Alaska roots and told the audience she was humbled to be leaving for a national campaign.
"I thank you for what you have instilled in me," Palin told the crowd.
The rally was the last stop on a homecoming visit for Palin, who had been away from the state since McCain chose her as his running mate two weeks ago. She arrived Wednesday in Fairbanks to an adoring crowd of 2,000 supporters and the next day spoke, in her capacity as governor, at a deployment ceremony for her son's U.S. Army unit. The military forbids campaigning at such events.
Palin had no other public appearances, chances to mingle with hometown crowds or interaction with the dozens of reporters and photographers accompanying her, except for a series of televised interviews with ABC News.
Palin did move out into the crowd a bit during her early Saturday appearance, shaking hands with supporters for about 15 minutes after her speech and signing campaign signs that read, "Welcome home Sarah."
She stayed for two days at her Wasilla home on Lake Lucille, missing a hastily planned rally of about 100 supporters gathered at a hotel near her home Friday evening. Organizers had hoped she'd stop by or say a few words through a special video conference connection they had set up.
Palin has been sheltered by McCain staff who have huddled with her over the last few days. She moves on to Nevada for a rally and is expected as early as next week to rejoin McCain on the campaign trail.
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