JUNEAU, Alaska Much of the country was taken by surprise when Sarah Palin became the Republican vice presidential candidate in August 2008, but newly-released emails make it clear that the little-known Alaska governor was angling for the slot months before Sen. John McCain asked her to join him on the GOP ticket.
Earlier that summer, Palin and her staff began pushing to find a larger audience for the governor, wedging her into national conversations and nudging the McCain campaign to notice her.
Palin and her staff talked excitedly on June 19 about plans to repeal Alaska's fuel tax. Ivy Frye, a longtime Palin aide and friend, said she would send details to McCain staffers when they became available.
"They're going to love it!" Frye wrote. "More vp talk is never a bad thing, whether you're considering vp or not. I still say President Palin sounds better tho..."
The glimpse into Palin came in more than 24,000 pages of emails released Friday from her first 21 months as governor. They showed a Palin involved closely in the day-to-day business of the state while trying to cope with the increasing pressures that came with her rise from small-town mayor to governor to national prominence.
They also revealed that Palin, as the newly-minted Republican vice presidential nominee, was dismayed by the sudden onslaught of questions from reporters, especially one about whether she believed dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time. She also dealt with death threats, and at least once, she prayed for strength.
The emails cover the period from the time she took office in December 2006 to her ascension to GOP vice presidential candidate in August and September 2008. They were first requested during the 2008 White House race by citizens and news organizations, including The Associated Press, as they vetted a nominee whose political experience included less than one term as governor and a term as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.
The emails provided details about how Palin was involved in various gubernatorial duties, including priorities like a natural gas pipeline from far northern Alaska to ship natural gas to the Lower 48. They also show that she was incredibly sensitive about her portrayal in the local media, with Palin often taking issue with blog posts or articles that she found unfavorable.
Some of the more intriguing details centered on her rise to the national stage.
Random supporters around the country began suggesting Palin as a potential vice presidential candidate as early as April. Then, after she appeared on Glenn Beck's program in early June, she received a string of flattering emails from conservatives looking for a fresh face to run alongside McCain.
"You would make an excellent president (forget being VP!!!)," a Virginia woman wrote that same day. "It is so refreshing to hear someone speak in a common sense manner."
Letters congratulating her on the birth of her son Trig poured in at that time from across the nation, bolstering her image and getting her name out in the Lower 48. One writer even foreshadowed what would come.
"We have heard your name, along with our own Governor, mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate," wrote a person who identified himself as Ron Peters of Shreveport, La. "I think you could do a lot for the Republican Party and would be an outstanding choice. Is this within the realm of possibility?"
In June, Palin and her team were making final preparations on a letter about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She told one aide to make sure the letter was sent to newspapers across the country. Then she added in a follow-up email: "Pls also send to McCain and Obama's camps. Thanks."
Also in June, spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton sent Palin a draft of an op-ed piece carrying the governor's name that would be pitched to national publications "beginning with the New York Times." Palin responded the following day, writing: "Pls print."
But many reporters were already paying attention. A deputy press secretary told Palin in early June that she was fielding interview requests "on everything from polar bears to the VP buzz" from national media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal.
Three years later, Palin is among the top tier of potential 2012 presidential candidates in polls of Republican voters. Her recent bus tour of the Northeast fueled speculation about her national ambitions. She has said she has not yet decided whether she will run.
Within minutes of the emails' release on Friday, Palin tweeted a link to the website for "The Undefeated," a documentary about her time as governor and her arrival on the national political stage.
Her supporters, meanwhile, encouraged everyone to read the messages. "The emails detail a Governor hard at work," said Tim Crawford, the treasurer of her political action committee, Sarah PAC, in a prepared statement.
The nearly three-year delay in releasing the material has been attributed largely to the sheer volume. The emails were packed into six boxes, weighing 250 pounds in all, stacked in a small office in a complex of buildings near the state capitol in Juneau.
Database of Sarah Palin emails (Crivella West)
Lawyers went through every page to redact sensitive government information. Emails that remained portrayed her as most fierce when the subject was defending her record or her family.
"Will ktuu (an Anchorage TV station) and adn (Anchorage Daily News) be corrected re: the "internal investigation"? I did not request it, as they are both reporting," she wrote to an aide in Aug. 13, 2008.
As news organizations began vetting her record, Palin was accused of essentially turning over questions about her gubernatorial record to McCain's campaign managers, part of an ambitious GOP strategy to limit any embarrassing disclosures and carefully shape her image for voters in the rest of the country.