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Palin Back on the Campaign Trail

CYPRESS, Texas - Even Sarah Palin can't outgun the Super Bowl.

After rocker Ted Nugent appeared as the warm-up act, the woman Gov. Rick Perry introduced as "one of America's superstar conservative leaders" on Sunday could not quite fill the big arena where she headlined her first political rally since 2008.

When Palin began speaking about two hours before kickoff of the championship football game, about one-fourth of the seats were empty. Perry spokesman Mark Miner, who earlier had put the capacity at 10,000, called it a good showing for a Super Bowl Sunday.

Those who did attend gave the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee an enthusiastic reception, whooping and whistling as Palin appealed to their Lone Star pride and leveled not-so-subtle digs at President Obama.

"I look forward to Texas sending Washington a message on how things can be done right," she declared.

Though Palin has been active promoting her memoir Going Rogue and speaking to groups such as a convention of Tea Party activists in Nashville on Saturday, her stump speech for Perry marked her first foray back onto the campaign trail since December 2008, when she helped Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss win a Georgia runoff.

The Texas rally is the first in a series of appearances that Palin will be making this spring on behalf of Republican candidates she described as "common sense conservatives who put their faith in the people, not big government."

Perry is a friend from Palin's days as Alaska governor. Perry is being challenged for the GOP nomination by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Debra Medina, a former county party chairwoman.

Next month, Palin plans to stump in Arizona for her 2008 running mate, Sen. John McCain, who faces former representative J.D. Hayworth and others in a GOP primary. In April, she campaigns in Minnesota for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Stumping for other candidates is one way presidential aspirants build the recognition and connections they need to make national races. Palin did nothing to discourage the idea of a presidential run on Fox News Sunday.

"I want to speak up for the American people and say, 'No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions,' " she said. "I can be a messenger for that."

Palin's appearance in this bedroom community northwest of Houston brought her to "the most conservative district in Texas," according to local state Sen. Dan Patrick. Patrick, who also hosts a daily radio call-in show, described his constituents as "hard-working, upper-middle-class folks" whom he believes will be a receptive audience for "a plain-spoken leader" such as Palin.

In the crowd, reactions to the idea of a Palin run for president were mixed.

Terry Aldrich, a pharmacist from Freeport, said he'd enthusiastically support Palin for president. "She's pro-life and obviously pro-gun," he said of Palin, who has spoken of her love of moose hunting. "She's the only voice we conservatives have."

Janice Davison, an office administrator from Houston, likes Palin but worries about the opposition she'd draw in another national campaign. "I don't know if she could stand the heat again," she said.

Palin was not paid for her campaign appearance here, Miner said. On Fox, the former governor acknowledged a $100,000 fee for her Nashville speech but said she is donating it "to the cause."

On Monday, Palin will be making another speech in Houston at a "Get Motivated" business seminar. According to promotional materials for the event, she'll be sharing a stage with several other big-name Republicans: former secretary of State Colin Powell and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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