Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, said Wednesday that she would consider serving in the Senate if God gave her the opportunity and Alaskans wanted her to take the job.
The state's senior Republican senator, convicted felon Ted Stevens, held a dwindling lead as counting resumed in his closely-fought re-election bid against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
Stevens, who has been in the Senate for 40 years, fell behind by just three votes Wednesday as Alaska election officials counted the more than 44,000 of the roughly 90,000 outstanding ballots from Election Day. Stevens had led by just over 3,000 votes after the first part of the count last week.
Even if he were re-elected, Stevens could be ousted by the Senate for his conviction on seven felony counts of failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts, mostly renovations on his home. If Stevens loses his seat, Palin could run for it in a special election. She also could challenge Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010.
Two years left in governor term
Palin was relatively unknown outside Alaska before John McCain picked her as his running mate in August. She energized crowds on the campaign trail, particularly conservative voters, but drew criticism from some in the party for lacking the experience needed for the White House.
Palin has two years left on her term as governor. She told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that she wants to serve her constituents the best she can. "At this point it is as governor," she said.
"Now if something shifted dramatically and if it were, if it were acknowledged up there that I could be put to better use for my state in the U.S. Senate, I would certainly consider that but that would take a special election and everything else," she said. "I am not one to appoint myself or a member of my family to take the place of any vacancy."
Pressed in a separate interview with CNN's Larry King about whether she would serve out her term as governor, Palin said, "I will do what the people of Alaska want me to do."
She added, however, "if they call an audible on me, and if they say they want me in another position, I'm going to do it. ... My life is in God's hands. If he's got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state's best interest, the nation's best interest, I'm going to go through those doors."
While she was on the Republican ticket, Palin put aside questions about Stevens' Senate seat.
Woman would be 'good for the ticket'
Palin also said Wednesday that a woman would be good for the Republican presidential ticket in the next election in 2012, but was coy about whether that woman might be her.
"It would be good for the ticket. It would be good for the party. I would be happy to get to do whatever is asked of me to help progress this nation," Palin told reporters at the Republican Governors Association meeting.
Palin's role at the Republican Governors Association conference highlights her newfound popularity.
She was scheduled to speak about the party's future at Thursday's meeting in Miami, where she will be introduced by the association's chairman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Presidential bid in four years?
Palin raised the possibility of running for America's top job in four years during flurry of national television interviews leading up to the high-profile governors' meeting.
The sudden press availability marks a departure for Palin, who was held to tightly controlled appearances for much of McCain's campaign for the White House. McCain was defeated last week by Democrat Barack Obama.
Asked about a presidential bid on CNN on Wednesday, Palin said she was "not ruling that out but there again, that is based on my philosophy that it's crazy to close a door before you know what's even open in front of you."
In an interview broadcast on NBC television Wednesday, Palin said Obama's advisers must understand the threats the United States faces.
"I'm comfortable with Barack Obama as our commander in chief, assuming that he has those around him who recognize .... that terrorists have not changed their minds," she said.