WOODBURY, N.Y. — In a poised and lively appearance before business executives in Woodbury on Thursday, Sarah Palin remained coy about whether she will run for president next year.
Asked directly if she would be a candidate, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee said, “I am still thinking about it. Certainly haven’t made up my mind, couldn’t make a decision yet.”
Minutes later, however, Palin said voters were seeking “unconventional” candidates who will “shake up” government. Her ideal candidate, she said, is a mother with experience in both politics and business, such as herself.
Palin, accompanied by her daughter Bristol, answered questions from Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, for 70 minutes before a crowd of about 1,000 at the Crest Hollow Country Club. Palin was paid for her appearance, but the LIA declined to say how much.
The former Alaska governor was animated and at times made fun of herself, referring to her love of moose hunting and the time she wrote notes on her hand for a speech.
The LIA is a far cry from the conservative and tea party groups Palin usually addresses. Her rhetoric Thursday was less strident, though she made her positions clear on the federal budget, gun control, foreign policy and other issues.
Responding to a question about the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre that killed six, Palin denounced new efforts at gun control. “The bad guys aren’t going to follow laws that are on the books today. They aren’t going to follow any new laws, either,” Palin said to some applause.
Still, she saved her strongest criticism for President Barack Obama’s $3.73 trillion budget proposal unveiled Monday. She said it does little to reduce the estimated $14 trillion national debt and undermines job growth by increasing taxes.
“This very poor and shortsighted budget proposal of our president … he’s certainly on the wrong track,” Palin said. “We have to get to a more common-sense ground and apply those principles that have worked in the past.”
She did not cite specific remedies despite being pressed by Law on several occasions.
Asked why her poll numbers are low, Palin blamed news reports about some of her offhand remarks, but also acknowledged the need to reach out beyond conservative circles. “In a lot of those polls, yeah, I get my butt kicked,” she said. “I don’t do well in a lot of these polls.”
In attacking Obama, Palin also poked fun at his wife, Michelle.
Citing the high cost of food in the past two years, Palin said, “No wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody, ‘You better breast-feed your babies’ — because I’m looking and going, ‘Yeah, you better because the price of milk is so high right now.’”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
Palin’s approach seemed to go over well with the audience, earning her warm applause.
“She was lighthearted and folksy. … People can identify with that,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
Phyllis Hill Slater, president of the architecture and engineering firm Hill Slater Inc. in Great Neck, said, “She’s a real person. … I think today she refuted the East Coast snobs that are always making fun of her.”
Accountant Lawrence J. Waldman agreed, saying, “She really had them listening to what she was saying. I think a lot of people saw her in a different light.”
- By James T. Madore, Newsday