IT WAS A DAY for yin and yang in American politics - and it was Sarah Palin who brought the yang to the Philadelphia area in a fundraiser for a Bucks County Christian school by repeatedly hailing "American exceptionalism" and what she called the nation's Judeo-Christian heritage.
"We must continue to build on our Judeo-Christian heritage, and it's nothing to apologize for," Palin, hero of the surging tea-party movement and a possible 2012 presidential candidate, told about 700 donors at the Plumstead Christian School, in upper Bucks County.
It was the biggest applause line for Palin, who spoke frequently in her roughly 30-minute speech and a question-and-answer session with students of both the role of faith in her life and political career and of her belief that God should play a greater role in the public square.
The yin to Palin's yang was the man who was halfway around the world - President Obama, who ironically, was speaking in the world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, at the same moment that this potential rival was stressing America's Christian roots.
In stressing the notion of "American exceptionalism" - the idea that the United States is fated to be the world's superpower and moral leader - Palin clearly intended to establish a contrast with Obama, who has sought to strengthen U.S. ties to other nations that were weakened in the Bush years.
At one point, the 2008 vice-presidential candidate and icon of conservative feminism said of bedrock beliefs in the Constitution and in the values of freedom that "something seems to be missing, and especially in the last year or two."
Later, she criticized Obama's call in the 2008 campaign for a "fundamental transformation" of America, saying that what the nation instead needed was a "fundamental restoration and renewal" back to its original values, which include faith.
Still, Palin - who recently told the TV show "Entertainment Tonight" that she would seek the Republican nod to challenge Obama if no one else stepped forward - stopped well short of declaring her candidacy last night. In response to a question, she said that she would have to poll her family about seeking the White House but that "if I run, I'm in it to win it."
If Palin does seek the Oval Office in 2012, the road to a GOP primary victory will pass through the Route 611 strip-shopping centers of small towns like Plumsteadville, the kind of predominantly white, Christian and Republican edge-of-the-exurbs community that Palin famously called "the pro-America parts of America" during her 2008 run.
She spent a good chunk of the day here - even at the same time that millions of Americans were watching her daughter Bristol survive into the semifinals of television's "Dancing with the Stars." The former half-term Alaska governor toured the 60-year-old Christian school in the afternoon, then appeared at a closed-to-the-media dinner at nearby Peddler's Village, where some guests paid as much as $950 for dinner and a private photo with Palin.
Officials said that they expected the dinner and speech to raise about $250,000 for the 60-year-old Christian school. It was reported that a benefactor had picked up at least some of the costs for luring Palin to Bucks County; those were not disclosed, although, since resigning her governmental job, she has commanded speaker fees as high as $100,000, with other perks such as a private jet.