From NBC/NJ's Matthew E. Berger
SEDONA, Ariz. -- In between her debate-prep sessions here, Palin called into the conservative Hugh Hewitt radio program Tuesday, decrying the lack of journalism ethics and repeatedly referring to herself as "Joe Six Pack."
Oct. 1: Sarah Palin, right, in Sedona, Ariz. with Randy Scheunemann, senior policy adviser for the McCain-Palin campaign, prepares for her Thursday night debate with Democratic counterpart Joseph Biden.
The interview comes amid new concerns that Palin is losing support among conservatives, as several prominent commentators have suggested she is unqualified for the vice presidency. The conversation touched on many of the key issues that made Palin popular in conservative circles when she was first named -- including her faith, support for Israel, and her decision to have a baby born with Down syndrome.
Palin linked herself to the financial situation many Americans now face, telling Hewitt: "I know what Americans are going through. Todd and I, heck, we're going through that right now even as we speak, which may put me again kind of on the outs of those Washington elite who don't like the idea of just an everyday, working-class American running for such an office." The governor of Alaska received a salary of $112,895 in 2007, according to stateline.org. The McCain campaign has not released the Palins' financial records.
"We've gone through periods of our life here with paying out of pocket for health coverage until Todd and I both landed a couple of good union jobs," she added. "Early on in our marriage, we didn't have health insurance, and we had to either make the choice of paying out of pocket for catastrophic coverage or just crossing our fingers, hoping that nobody would get hurt, nobody would get sick. So I know what Americans are going through there."
She said her family probably took a $20,000 hit in the stock market last week, mostly through Todd's 401K plan.
Palin's chat with Hewitt was on much friendlier terrain than the Republican vice presidential nominee has appeared on in recent weeks, with evening news anchors Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. Hewitt asked about the "virulent opposition to you on the left" because of her position on abortion, and asked whether "the mainstream media and the left understands your religious faith?"
Palin was asked in the interview about her reaction to "extreme hostility" from the media. "I think they're just not used to someone coming in from the outside saying you know what -- it's time that normal Joe Six Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency," she said. "And I think that that's kind of taken some people off guard, and they're out of sorts, and they're ticked off about it, but it's motivation for John McCain and I to work that much harder to make sure that our ticket is victorious."
Also in the interview, she told the conservative radio host that she does not belong to any church -- in an apparent attempt to separate herself from several of the churches she has been known to attend, one where she received a blessing against witchcraft and another under fire for promoting an event to convert gays and lesbians.
"I think that there's a lot of mocking of my personal faith, and my personal faith is very, very simple," she told Hewitt, according to a transcript released by the campaign. "I don't belong to any church. I do have a strong belief in God, and I believe that I'm a heck of a lot better off putting my life in God's hands, and saying hey, you know, guide me."
The senior pastor of Wasilla Bible Church told Newsweek magazine earlier this month that Palin and her family regularly attend church there and have for six years. Another pastor said her youngest child, Trig, was "dedicated" at the church before she was nominated for vice president. But several Internet videos have shown Palin speaking and receiving prayers at Wasilla Assembly of God, where she said the war in Iraq was a "task that is from God" and received a prayer from a guest preacher asking she be protected from witchcraft.
Palin also reminded Hewitt of her own background as a reporter, but said she learned things differently. "Well, I have a degree in journalism also, so it surprises me that so much has changed since I received my education in journalistic ethics all those years ago," she said. "But I'm not going to pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrelful. I'm going to take those shots and those pop quizzes and just say that's okay, those are good testing grounds."
Palin has been camped out all day at McCain's Sedona ranch, where campaign officials said she is preparing "outdoors near a creek." Campaign aides said it was a "relaxed environment," joined by her husband and four younger children.