SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sarah Palin began a three-day swing through California on Thursday that promises to be equal parts promotional and political in a state that has been slow to embrace her conservative star power.
The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate's appearances conclude Saturday in Orange County at a Republican National Committee rally meant to whip up supporters for the final push toward the November elections.
Last weekend, Palin spoke at a business conference in Bakersfield and at a San Diego event for Combat Veterans For Congress. The trip inspired a post on her Facebook page in which she declared, "This is still Reagan Country!"
"California is at a major crossroad in this election, and the eyes of the nation are on this state because the Golden State has unfortunately become a case study in failed liberal policies," she wrote Oct. 9.
On Thursday, Palin appeared in the San Francisco Bay area at a forum sponsored by the conservative, Washington-based Liberty and Freedom Foundation.
Her next scheduled stop, on Friday, is the Sacramento Metro Chamber's annual "Perspectives" event. She will be joined there by fellow headliner Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman.
Both speakers have been asked to comment on the current political landscape – a topic that will no doubt produce sharply contrasting views. Last week, Dean sent out an e-mail on behalf of his political action committee, Democracy for America, warning that he had "never seen more extreme candidates than the ones being pushed today by Sarah Palin" and urging supporters to donate to the Democrats in those races.
Palin's California sweep will culminate in Saturday's "RNC Victory 2010" gathering in Anaheim.
It is one of two major rallies GOP leaders have scheduled before Nov. 2. The other will be in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 23.
Orange County is home to one of the country's largest concentrations of Republicans, making it a logical choice for the rally, said California GOP Chairman Ron Nehring. But the RNC's decision to come to California also is a sign of the state's increased competitiveness this election, he said.
"California is very much in play," Nehring said. "It's wonderful to see the state receiving so much attention. The fact that we have prominent voices in both parties coming to the state – whether it's Barack Obama or Bill Clinton or Sarah Palin – Democrats are having to fight to win this election."
In addition to Palin and RNC Chairman Michael Steele, the lineup for the rally includes several members of Congress as well as state lawmakers and local elected officials from the area.
Notably absent will be the top Republicans running for office in California – gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Senate challenger Carly Fiorina. Representatives from both campaigns said their candidates have events scheduled elsewhere that day.
At Tuesday's gubernatorial debate, Whitman gave a more detailed explanation.
While acknowledging that Palin has "a real following in the Republican Party," the former eBay chief executive added: "But you know that I have actually supported other presidential nominees, whether it was John McCain or my long-term friend Mitt Romney. That day, I'm going to be out with voters talking about the things that matter to Californians, and that is jobs."
Skipping a chance to appear with Palin is a politically savvy move in California, according to the results of a recent Field Poll. The survey, which was released Oct. 6, found that 58 percent of California's registered voters hold a negative view of her, although she remains quite popular among Republicans. In addition, two-thirds of independent voters – who are essential to the campaign strategies of Whitman and Fiorina – would be less inclined to support a candidate endorsed by Palin.
Palin's endorsements in California have been relatively limited. She endorsed Fiorina before the GOP Senate primary in June and has thrown her support behind Star Parker, the long-shot Republican challenger in a heavily Democratic congressional district that includes Long Beach, Compton and south Los Angeles.