GOP band­wagon runs on ‘Palin Power’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Call them skirt­tails — vol­un­teer num­bers have sky­rock­eted, fundrais­ing has picked up and even the polling shows closer races in some down-ticket con­gres­sional con­tests as Repub­li­cans say the ef­fects of “Palin Power” are be­ing felt across the coun­try.

Af­ter Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date John McCain tapped Sarah Palin to be his run­ning mate on Aug. 29, the re­quests started rolling in for her to cam­paign with House and Se­nate candidates, and they haven’t stopped yet. In the mean­time, the num­ber of Repub­li­cans looking to vol­un­teer for the party’s na­tional victory ef­fort jumped 500 per­cent that first week­end, and con­gres­sional candidates say they’ve seen the en­thu­si­asm bleed all the way down to their level.

“Our cam­paign phones are ring­ing off the hook, and we’re get­ting a lot more calls, a lot more e-mails with vol­un­teers, [say­ing], ‘How can we see Sarah Palin? How can we get her to Vir­ginia?’ “ said Rep. Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, who is run­ning for re-elec­tion. “Any doubts about where the Repub­li­can base is go­ing to be have been erased.”

Even with scru­tiny of Mrs. Palin reach­ing sat­u­ra­tion lev­els in the na­tional press, Repub­li­cans can’t get enough of her — and are show­ing their sup­port in do­na­tions, man­power and other mea­sures of en­thu­si­asm.

Rep. Tom Cole, chair­man of the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee, told his House col­leagues in a closed-door meet­ing Sept. 9 that their on­line fundrais­ing neared $250,000 dur­ing con­ven­tion week, and the Repub­li­can Se­nate com­mit­tee re­ported a jump from tele­mar­ket­ing — from about $20,000 on a typ­i­cal week­end to $54,000 the week­end that Mrs. Palin was se­lected.

“She is a game-changer for the pres­i­den­tial. We be­lieve she’s a game-changer for all of our Se­nate races,” said Re­becca Fisher, a spokes­woman for the Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, who said the re­quests for Mrs. Palin to cam­paign with Se­nate candidates are rolling in.

“We’ve got­ten a lot of re­quests,” Mrs. Fisher said. “They’re say­ing, ‘We would love to have her in our state to help.’ “

Po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists have long de­bated coattails, the the­ory that a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s pop­u­lar­ity can help pull House and Se­nate mem­bers into of­fice along with the top of the ticket. Now they will have to add vice-pres­i­den­tial candidates to the ques­tion.

Democrats, though, say they’re see­ing the be­gin­nings of re­ver­se­tails.

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Barack Obama’s cam­paign re­ported an anti-Palin fundrais­ing surge of $10 mil­lion raised in the 23 hours be­tween the time she fin­ished her speech to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion and the next night, when Mr. McCain spoke.

Speak­ing in River­side, Ohio, on Sept. 9, Mr. Obama said Mrs. Palin has cer­tainly got­ten at­ten­tion.

“She has been on the minds of all of you, and as a con­se­quence has been be­fore the Amer­i­can peo­ple con­stantly for the last week and has brought ex­cite­ment to the Repub­li­can Party. There’s no doubt about that,” he told re­porters, adding that her real test is still to come. “I think that what we’re go­ing to have to do is to see how things set­tle out over the next few weeks, when peo­ple start ex­am­in­ing, who’s ac­tu­ally go­ing to de­liver on the is­sues that peo­ple care about?”

A Demo­cratic of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity, said the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee raised more than $600,000 dur­ing the week of the Democrats’ con­ven­tion and raised nearly $300,000 dur­ing Repub­li­cans’ con­ven­tion — both more than what the NRCC was able to raise dur­ing the Palin surge.

That of­fi­cial and oth­ers said Mrs. Palin could ac­tu­ally hurt Repub­li­cans run­ning in some dis­tricts, par­tic­u­larly in sub­ur­ban ar­eas where Democrats say her pro-life stance and other po­si­tions may be at odds with the in­de­pen­dent and sub­ur­ban fe­male vot­ers whom both cam­paigns are tar­get­ing.

In one re­cent in­stance, a group of 75 women wrote a let­ter to Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illi­nois Repub­li­can, say­ing his praise of Mrs. Palin would hurt him.

“To the women of the 10th District, there is noth­ing en­cour­ag­ing about Palin’s ex­treme po­lit­i­cal views, in­clud­ing her op­po­si­tion to a woman’s right to choose even in the cases of in­cest and rape, equal pay for equal work, and gun con­trol. Nor is her sup­port for ab­sti­nence-only sex ed­u­ca­tion, teach­ing cre­ation­ism in our schools and ban­ning books from our pub­lic li­braries,” the women wrote in their let­ter, though some of their claims such as book ban­ning have been dis­cred­ited by po­lit­i­cal fact-check­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions.

For now, there are more ques­tions than an­swers about Mrs. Palin’s ef- fect on the fate of Repub­li­cans in spe­cific down-ticket races.

Last week, sev­eral new polls showed Se­nate races closer than they used to be. In at least one of those con­tests — in Alaska, where Sen. Ted Stevens, a Repub­li­can, is fac­ing a bruis­ing re-elec­tion bat­tle — Mrs. Palin is be­ing given credit.

Mr. Stevens has closed a more than 15-point gap to en­ter into a sta­tis­ti­cal tie with his Demo­cratic chal­lenger, Mark Begich, and in a polling memo, his cam­paign said that’s partly be­cause en­thu­si­asm af­ter Mrs. Palin’s se­lec­tion “has gone through the roof.”

But Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, said that race also ex­poses the prob­lems for Mrs. Palin. Mr. Stevens faces trial on fed­eral charges of not re­port­ing gifts he re­ceived, and Mrs. Palin has not yet said whether she backs Mr. Stevens’ bid for re-elec­tion.

There’s not much ques­tion Repub­li­cans see Mrs. Palin’s pop­u­lar­ity as noth­ing but pos­i­tive, and they are rush­ing to try to trans­fer some of it to them­selves.

On the NRCC’s Web site, www.nrcc.org, on Sept. 9, the ro­tat­ing splash pho­tos on the main page in­cluded one of Mrs. Palin, but Mr. McCain was nowhere to be seen.

And they say the shot of en­thu­si­asm ex­tends up and down the line.

When cou­pled with House Repub­li­cans’ month­long demon­stra­tion in Au­gust oc­cu­py­ing the floor of the ad­journed House cham­ber, Mr. Can­tor said Mrs. Palin’s se­lec­tion has House Repub­li­cans sky-high.

“We have not had a string of weeks of pos­i­tive mo­men­tum like this in years. Maybe it’s not all due to her, but she has been a real mo­ti­vat­ing force,” Mr. Can­tor said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­cans credit Gov. Sarah Palin’s nom­i­na­tion for an uptick in fundrais­ing.

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