Little Rock, Ark. • She’s no Sarah Palin.
But Gov. Jan Brewer has become at least a minor rock star in Republican Party circles.
Heck, she’s even touring.
A week ago she was in Kansas City addressing Republican women elected officials. This past week it was helping the Arkansas Republican Party raise money.
And three weeks from now she’ll be belting out her greatest hits to party faithful in Birmingham, Ala.
That does not even include a two-week coast-to-coast tour to promote her upcoming book, “Scorpions for Breakfast,” a self-described screed of all the things her party believes are bad: Barack Obama, illegal immigration and the liberal media.
And then there’s the defense of her home state, which she thinks has gotten a bad rap.
“I’m on the road because I believe we have a story to tell, a story about Arizona: Where she’s been and where she’s headed,” she said in an interview with Capitol Media Services.
“I think we in Arizona have been painted with a brush that some might find kind of disturbing,” the governor explained. And Brewer said she hits the road whenever possible because “it takes that personal involvement, I think, to tell our story.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Republican groups that have invited her are willing to pick up the tab. That’s because Brewer has enough of a reputation to pack in the crowds willing to pay to see her.
Some of her story is personal, ranging from being raised by a single mom to inheriting what was arguably the largest state budget deficit, percentage-wise, when Democratic predecessor Janet Napolitano left midway through her second term to become Homeland Security chief.
But she got her street cred in the GOP courtesy of Barack Obama.
The governor certainly got her moment in the spotlight in 2010 when she penned her approval to SB 1070. While she was not the author or legislative sponsor of the measure aimed at illegal immigrants, she got the live TV coverage when she signed it.
A series of predictable lawsuits followed.
But it was not until the Department of Justice weighed in, not with a friend of the court brief but its own legal challenge, that Brewer’s name recognition skyrocketed. After all, as she puts it, that amounted to Barack Obama suing Jan Brewer.
And while a judge has enjoined key provisions from taking effect, Brewer keeps the issue in the public eye, with a petition for review now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The governor also makes sure to tell audiences that, from her perspective, that court fight is personal. So she not only takes time in each speech to defend her stand that the state had to act on illegal immigration because the federal government isn’t doing its job, but also has been expanding her repertoire to include new attacks on Obama on issues way beyond those directly related to Arizona.
The latest involve the president’s handling of the economy.
“I think the majority of it has been his fault, by not resolving it, by not coming forward with a good plan,” she said.
“Everything that he has done has been wrong,” Brewer continued. “Everything that he has done as far as trying to get the economy turned around hasn’t been successful. It’s just all promises and no delivery.”
Brewer has come up with her own verbal shorthand for the president’s promises, saying he promises a lot of good stuff but delivers a “ketchup Popsicle.” The line always gets a cheer.
If Obama is at the top of the enemies list, reporters are not far below. Here, too, Brewer advertises her disdain as a form of Arizona patriotism.
“I believe the liberal media has really painted Arizona as people that they simply aren’t,” she said.
“All this business about us being racists and bigots, and particularly offensive kinds of protesting that took place in Arizona, (I want people) to know that we are peace-loving, wonderful Americans and that we that live in the Southwest — a great majority of us — we don’t have a racist bone in our body,’’ the governor explained. That brings it back to the theme that got her on the national stage.
“What we’re doing is just trying to get the federal government to enforce the rule of law,” she said. “That’s all we ask. And for them to do their job.”
All that leads to a single message she keeps delivering about the 2012 election.
“Republicans have got to be ready,” she said.
“We need to take advantage of the enthusiasm within our party, that we are different than Democrats,” she said, saying the GOP has “every reason” to be able to take back the White House.
“This is our time,” Brewer said.
None of that preaching to the GOP choir precludes her, however, from making a pitch for her book, due in stores Nov. 1.
“It’ll make a Christmas present, maybe, for one or two of your friends,” she tells her audience. “Just a suggestion,” she adds, pointing out it’s also available in a Kindle format.
It’s not unusual for politicians to hit the nationwide speech circuit and write a book as a precursor for some bid for higher office. But Brewer, who turned 67 last month, said that there are no such plans “at this particular time.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that after more than three decades in Arizona politics, Brewer intends to retire to her Glendale home to tend her garden and feed the hummingbirds. Asked if she might consider an ambassadorship to some Latin American country, Brewer just smiled.
Brewer’s fame does not exist simply in Republican circles.
Her battles with the federal government have made her a favorite guest on cable talk shows, notably with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. And, that, in turn, has given her some name — and face — recognition beyond Republican insiders.
Before her speech here this week, the governor toured the Clinton presidential library. And there, even among people she presumed were Democrats, she garnered some attention.
“They were, interestingly enough, very positive and supportive of Jan Brewer from Arizona,” the governor said.