AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
THE VILLAGES, Fla. - Sarah Palin played it safe Sunday on her first trip as John McCain's running mate to the battleground state of Florida.
She went to perhaps the easiest place in Florida to get a large Republican turnout, stuck mostly to the themes she's hit since the Republican convention and took no questions from reporters or the crowd.
But she was welcomed like a star, with tens of thousands cramming into a plaza and nearby streets in this enormous retirement community about an hour north of Orlando. Some waited more than five hours in 92-degree heat to see her speak for 23 minutes.
Palin arrived in Florida on Friday and had no public events Saturday, though she told the crowd her daughters Piper and Willow got to go to Disney World.
After some jokes about the difference between golfing in Florida and Alaska, her remarks hit most of the same points she's made since McCain chose her as the first woman to run as a Republican vice presidential nominee. She did, however, update the stump speech to reflect last week's turmoil in the financial markets.
"We need serious reform on Wall Street. We need better regulation. It's like Senator McCain said just yesterday — we don't need a dozen federal agencies doing the job badly, we need the best agencies doing the job right," she said.
She said McCain had warned about the problems affecting financial institutions, and attacked Democrat Barack Obama on the issue.
"This week when the economic crisis threatened the livelihood of millions of Americans, John McCain took a clear stand and he offered his own recovery plan. Our opponent refused to even take a stand on the position," Palin said.
The Obama campaign criticized McCain's response to last week's events on Wall Street.
"McCain's first response to this crisis was to say that 'the fundamentals of our economy are strong,' then he admitted it was a crisis, and then he proposed a 'commission,' which is just Washington-speak for 'I'll get back to you later,'" said Obama campaign spokesman Mark Bubriski.
The visit drew a few contrasts between Palin and Obama running mate Joe Biden.
The largest was the crowd. Some people had to wait in line about 90 minutes just to park their cars. Biden's largest crowd during a visit earlier this month was about 2,000.
But Biden made four stops in his two days, and ventured into Republican strongholds like Fort Myers and Sarasota. He took questions from the audience at each stop and did interviews with local media.
Still, Palin had star power. One teenage girl held up a sign that read, "When I grow up, I want to be Sarah Palin." Another sign read, "This chick supports Sarah Palin." Many said they didn't even know who Palin was until last month.
"I knew absolutely nothing," said Tyler Deeds, 19, who made the drive from Auburndale 90 miles away and waited more than 5 hours to see Palin. "I couldn't even tell you who the governor of Alaska was."
But Deeds, who plans to enter the Navy soon, said he "tends to cling to my guns and religion" and he quickly grew excited about Palin's candidacy.
Joan Guay, 81, dabbed bottled water on her arms as she waited for Palin in the broiling heat. She said she previously supported Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"This country needs a woman up there," Guay said. "I like her background, I like her family. It's a family that does things together. And I like her work in the community."
On the Net:
McCain campaign: http://www.johnmccain.com/
Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com/