PHILADELPHIA — Within minutes of arriving at a private meeting on the economy with 48 governors, Vice President-elect Joe Biden had an offer for his onetime opponent, the Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.
Come outside and be seen with him in front of the cameras, Biden joked in front of the crowd of governors and his boss, President-elect Barack Obama. Then, he suggested, he'd at least draw some of the attention that continues to make the Alaska Republican one of the most talked-about figures in American politics — even after losing her shot at the vice presidency.
"I want to thank all of you for being here," Biden said, soon after he and Obama arrived at the meeting. "And Governor Palin, I want to thank you particularly. I might point out ... since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all. So I'm — maybe you will walk outside with me or something later and say hello to me."
With just a quip, Biden defused an otherwise awkward situation: the first public encounter between Biden, Obama and Palin since the Nov. 4 election. Her running mate, Sen. John McCain, met with Obama in Chicago Nov. 17.
"It was great, because, you know, he's got a great sense of humor," Palin said of the Biden meeting as she was leaving the economic summit at Philadelphia's historic Congress Hall. "So we got to laugh about a lot of things that we both observed along the trail. He's very friendly, and we had a great conversation. And I got to talk to him about energy issues, which I always want to talk about it."
At a press conference after the summit, Palin kept her remarks succinct and — deftly — didn't dominate the event. It was in marked contrast to a press conference at the Republican Governor's Association meeting in Miami last month, when some other GOP governors grumbled privately that she stole the spotlight when the focus was supposed to be on how to rebuild the Republican brand for the next round of elections.
This time, Palin kept a relatively low profile, sticking to the edge of the 30 or so chief executives at the press conference. She was preceded by one of the other high-wattage GOP governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.
When it was her turn, Palin within minutes deferred to one of her fellow Republican governors, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, to address a question on increasing the national debt. And she only came forward because she was asked a question: What she thought of working with a ticket that she had had "a lot of unflattering things to say about" during the campaign.
"Oh, that was mutual, of course," she said of the campaign trail mudslinging, drawing laughs. "But the campaign is over. And I so appreciated this meeting we had and I'm optimistic about moving forward in a bipartisan manner."
Yet Palin was fresh off the campaign trail Tuesday. The day before, she'd been stumping on behalf of Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican whose runoff election was Tuesday.
Palin defended herself against the criticism her most recent campaigning has drawn from Alaska, saying that it was actually "very good for my state."
"Because the candidate whom I was supporting is for energy development up in Alaska, for ANWR opening, and for more drilling and for a natural gas pipeline that we need. And for Second Amendment rights protected, so that's very important for my state, and it was important that I be there."
But like Biden, Palin, too, put on a self-deprecating and bipartisan air, when she praised Obama for recognizing the importance of governors by attending the summit.
Governors "do know best," Palin said, but she added that voters didn't buy that argument on the campaign trail. On Nov. 4, they decided a team of senators knew better, Palin said.
"Obviously that didn't work and that's why I'm here and VP-elect Biden is there," she said.
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