Gov. Sarah Palin arrived home to a chanting, cheering crowd, a blur of smiling supporters eager to embrace her after a whirlwind of national scrutiny since she was named Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate.
"It's been an amazing couple of weeks," Palin told the crowd of more than 2,000 gathered inside an airport hanger. They chanted, "Sarah, Sarah," waved signs that said, "Palin Is great."
Palin offered the crowd much of the same campaign speech she's given since McCain named her to the GOP ticket on Aug. 29, including her reference to listing the state plane for sale on eBay after she became governor.
"I say that hopefully not sounding hypocritical as I walk off that," she said, pointing to the McCain campaign jet she now uses.
She received the loudest bursts of applause when promising to push for drilling in this oil-rich state.
"Our state, Alaska, will be a leader in our nation's energy policy and bring us one step closer to energy independence," she told the audience, at one point straying from her prepared speech to say, "I feel like I'm preaching to the choir because you guys already know this."
On her own
This was Palin's first stop on her first campaign trip without McCain, who escorted Palin and her husband, Todd, to a Washington airport Wednesday. Palin told the hometown crowd "I can't wait to introduce you to John McCain. He's a friend of Alaska."
Palin, joined on the stage with her husband and three of her five children, soaked up the crowd's cheers. She said she has proudly talked about her life and work in her state while campaigning with McCain.
"We've been talking all about Alaska, and people have been impressed," she said.
She thanked her staff in the governor's office for "holding down the fort" while she's been campaigning.
"I promise that I will do my best to make Alaska proud in the weeks to come," she told her supporters.
McCain aides said he and Palin likely will rejoin on the campaign trail next week, and are expected to spend much of the fall campaigning together, a move that not only capitalizes on the Republican enthusiasm for the vice presidential nominee but also limits her exposure to the news media.
Palin has not done interviews since the first and only one she gave to People magazine on the day McCain introduced her as his vice presidential choice.
Palin's plane made a brief refueling stop in Montana to finish the trip to Fairbanks. She is scheduled to make at least two public appearances in Alaska, including a homecoming rally set for Wednesday evening in Fairbanks.
She also is scheduled for an interview with ABC News, but no other media interviews are scheduled, campaign officials said. The campaign repeatedly has denied other interview requests.
This is Palin's first venture away from McCain and his advisers, although several of the campaign's staff accompanied her to Alaska. She did not interact with reporters during the flight.