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Continued: For Palin and her fans, the admiration is mutual

The passion. The phenomena. The Palinmania.

About 1,500 people missed work and school, braved the cold, stayed up all night and dealt with exacting rules, all to see Sarah Palin at the Mall of America on Monday.

Before dawn, about 500 people snaked in a quarter-mile-long line, hoping to interact with the former Alaska governor who was plucked from relative national obscurity to become the Republican vice presidential nominee. By noon, the line had mushroomed to 1,500.

Palin's Bloomington stop was one of more than a dozen she has made in smaller cities across the country to promote her memoir, "Going Rogue," attracting thousands of autograph seekers.

While independent reviewers and some former McCain staffers have said parts of the book are factually challenged, critics have done little to douse fans' pro-Palin flames.

Cathy Conner left her home in La Crosse, Wis., just after 1 a.m. to secure her place in the pre-dawn line.

What does Conner, 55, like about Palin?

"Everything," she said.

Not everyone shared that sentiment. While most who waited were orderly, Jeremy Olson, who police said has no permanent address, was arrested and jailed after a tomato he threw at Palin hit two Bloomington officers on the stage. He was charged with fourth-degree assault on a police officer, a gross misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. Mall spokeswoman Erica Dao said the tomato landed nowhere near Palin and did not disrupt the signing.

The former Alaska governor, who attracts equal amounts of love and scorn, was prepared for it all.

At 11:40 a.m. Monday -- 20 minutes before her scheduled noon book signing start -- Palin took the stage to a cheering crowd, joined by baby Trig and her husband, Todd Palin. Palin's parents also were sighted in the mall.

Within moments, Palin began signing books, taking about five seconds apiece to shake with one hand while autographing with the other. For nearly four hours, Todd cracked open volume after volume to hand to his wife while someone offstage held Trig.

She finished shortly before 4 p.m., telling her cheering fans, "Thank you guys for being here."

Vicki Wilmar clutched two signed copies of Palin's book. "I just love her," said Wilmar, of New Prague. "I just told her my two daughters idolized her."

Patty Petermeier, who arrived at the mall shortly before 5 a.m., could barely speak after getting her book signed.

"It's very emotional," Petermeier, 26, of Anoka, said.

While the crowd's enthusiasm was high, their numbers didn't break any records. Palin's 1,500-person crowd, as determined by mall officials, was more than many authors have drawn, but far less than the 8,000 who came to see film star and former pro-wrestler Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson in 2000. Palin did attract as many as her former running mate, John McCain, when he wrote "Faith of My Fathers," and far more than former Gov. Jesse Ventura, whose crowds numbered in the hundreds for his books in 1999 and 2008.

But that mattered little to those who waited Monday, chanting early morning cheers and some wearing Palin fan-garb.

"I just really think she's inspirational," said Roxana Fritz, 14, of Cottage Grove, who was reading the book as she stood in line. She said Palin would be a great president -- she'd keep taxes low, drive down the national debt and do military policy right.

Not all Palin fans

Not all of those who waited Monday were pure Palin fans.

Josh Preston, a political science major, wore a Wellstone T-shirt under his garb -- a nod to the Democrat he is and the community organizer he hopes to be. He and the other University of Minnesota, Morris, students pulled an all-nighter to see the woman whose prominence has made history.

"She's very relevant to the political scene right now," said Preston, 19, of Montevideo.

Naomi Wente said she joined the Morris crew because Palin is part of history and has blazed a trail for women in politics.

"I'm here to make my own judgments about her," said Wente, 18, of Dodge Center.

After the book signing, the former governor was to attend a $5,000-a-head fundraiser for the conservative Freedom Club, which has given millions of dollars over the years to Minnesota Republican organizations.

Midge Dean, longtime Republican fundraiser and organizer of the Palin event, said about 80 people were scheduled to attend, including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Palin is being paid to attend but, Dean said: "I'm not going to tell you how much."

At the mall, Palin referenced her upcoming meeting with Bachmann to a couple wearing Palin-Bachmann 2012 sweatshirts.

"She said she likes Michele Bachmann, too and she's going to see her later today," said Tom Magnafici, of St. Croix Falls, Wis.

At an event at the State Capitol, Bachmann, who has said she isn't running for national office, said the admiration is mutual.

If it comes to a 2012 choice between Palin and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty?

"I like both of them," Bachmann said. "I am very partial toward our own governor. I think he's marvelous. I love Gov. Pawlenty and Gov. Palin and I think there will be a lot more choices out there."

Baird Helgeson and Richard Tsong-Taatarii contributed to this report. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • 651-292-0164

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