Palin Kick-Starts Bus Tour On Back Of Motorcycle Wearing black from head to toe, the Republicans' 2008 vice presidential nominee stopped at a thousands-strong motorcycle ride from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Palin, who is considering a White House run, was joined by her family.
NPR logo

Palin Kick-Starts Bus Tour On Back Of Motorcycle

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136769534/136775666" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Palin Kick-Starts Bus Tour On Back Of Motorcycle

Palin Kick-Starts Bus Tour On Back Of Motorcycle

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136769534/136775666" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

(Soundbite of motorcycles)

MARTIN: In case you haven't guessed, that's the sound of a Memorial Day weekend tradition here in Washington, D.C., thousands on their bikes for the 24th annual Rolling Thunder Ride from the Pentagon to the National Mall.

This year, a new rider, potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin astride a Harley. Many in the crowd were excited to see her, but some worried her presence could be a distraction.

NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

ALLISON KEYES: No doubt about it, Sarah Palin draws a crowd, even in a crowd.

Unidentified Woman #1: We love you.

KEYES: She rode up on the back of a motorcycle in a black leather jacket, black flared pants, black heels and a wide smile.

Along with her husband and family, Palin threaded her way through a whirling crush of reporters, starstruck bikers and a fierce set of bodyguard veterans who locked arms to keep people back.

Chris Rogers of Maryland was excited Palin was here.

Ms. CHRIS ROGERS: I love it. I think it's awesome. I think she fits right in.

Mr. FRANK WALLACE: I think it's good for her, basically.

KEYES: Frank Wallace of Macon, Georgia, is a veteran who rushed over to get a picture of Palin. He says he doesn't agree with her politics, but still Wallace calls this a monumental event.

Mr. WALLACE: I'm not basically a supporter of everything she does, but I still respect her for it.

Ms. SHARON HARBOR: I think she should have stayed away.

KEYES: Some in the huge crowd, like Sharon Harbor of New Hampshire, said they felt Palin's presence infringed on an emotional event meant to honor the troops, like Harbor's husband, who died from Agent Orange, and her son, who is in Iraq.

Ms. HARBOR: And I think a lot of the things that Sarah does are for attention. I don't think a lot of the things she does are heartfelt.

KEYES: Rolling Thunder national president Gary Sheffmeyer says his organization isn't endorsing or supporting Palin, but he says he's glad she was here because it showed she supports veterans, prisoners of war and the missing in action.

Mr. GARY SHEFFMEYER (President, Rolling Thunder): We're happy to have her, and it brings attention - it brings a good deal of attention to what we stand for.

Unidentified Man #1: Ms. Palin, can I get your autograph, please?

KEYES: Palin herself smiled, shook hands and posed for pictures with fans and didn't address any of the shouted are-you-going-to-run-for-president questions. She didn't address the crowd itself during Sunday's event. But asked directly why she was here, Palin told NPR:

Ms. SARAH PALIN (Former Republican Governor, Alaska): We're here to express our gratitude to our veterans. It is our vets who we owe our freedom, not the politician, not the reporter. It is our vets. So that's why we're here.

Unidentified Man #2: Here you go.

(Soundbite of motorcycles)

KEYES: But as many in the crowd noted, this isn't a bad place to get publicity and solidify your support in a group that's clearly pro-American and very patriotic.

Palin hasn't declared whether she'll join the Republican field, but she started today on what's being billed as the One Nation bus tour, which will visit historic sites up through New England.

There's speculation that might include a visit to New Hampshire, the state that holds the first nominating primary. Some of her potential opponents, including Mitt Romney, are headed to that state this week.

Romney and Palin lead the latest Gallup poll. But if Palin chooses to run, she has the challenge of convincing skeptical voters, including biker and veteran Steve Michael.

Mr. STEVE MICHAEL: I think that if the right person is Sarah Palin for the job, then I would vote for her. I'm not convinced necessarily that she is the right person, but I'm not convinced who is.

(Soundbite of motorcycles)

KEYES: That kind of uncertainty about the field explains why a personality such as Sarah Palin sparks such excitement just by jumping on the back of a motorcycle.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.