GREAT FALLS, Montana (AFP) — In a break with tradition, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin could spend more time together on the campaign trail than apart, a senior campaign aide said Wednesday.
"It is under serious consideration that they will spend more time together than not and more time than is traditional," the aide told reporters aboard Palin's campaign plane during a refueling stop in Montana en route to Alaska. "There's just a huge amount of enthusiasm."
McCain's campaign has received a major bump in the polls since he announced on August 29 his surprise pick of Palin, a self-described "hockey mom" who won Alaska's gubernatorial race two years ago with a corruption-fighting campaign.
Palin has electrified the Republican Party's conservative base, which had previously been wary of McCain's more moderate views. She immediately won a loyal following of fans who turn out by the thousands chanting "Sa-rah! Sa-rah!" at rallies across the nation.
Initially, Palin was set to break off from McCain days after they were officially nominated at the Republican National Convention. Instead, she campaigned with the Arizona senator right up to the day she had to fly home to attend her son's deployment to Iraq.
Vice presidential candidates are usually used as surrogates to help drum up support for their running mate. Campaigning together means fewer appearances and less free air time on local news channels.
With just 55 days left until the November 4 election, joint appearances will take a huge bite out of the number of media markets the candidates can reach.
Some observers have speculated that the campaign kept them together because Palin wasn't ready to go it alone, or because they were concerned she would draw bigger crowds than McCain.
The McCain campaign aide denied both hypotheses.
"We feel very good about their chemistry and their ability to really deliver a strong message on change, energy independence and the economy," the aide said.
"And we like the images."
In this age of diversified media, local air time may not be as important as shaping the overall coverage.
Palin is traveling to Alaska for a few days, and a large welcome home rally is planned when she lands in Fairbanks. She is expected back in the lower 48 states on Saturday.
McCain has not scheduled any rallies during that time, although he will be appearing at memorial services in Pennsylvania and New York for the anniversary of the September 11 attacks Thursday.
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