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Incoming N.J. and Va. govs tell how they won -- and why Palin didn't campaign for them

By Dan Balz
AUSTIN -- On the day that Sarah Palin kicked off her book tour to enthusiastic crowds, the two newest Republican governors sought to explain why the former Alaska governor had not campaigned on their behalf this fall.

Palin is a potentially potent force among some conservative voters, but also someone whose unpopularity among independent voters could prove to be a negative in a campaign. But both Virginia Gov.-elect Robert McDonnell and New Jersey Gov.-elect Chris Christie said her absence in their states had nothing to do with concerns that she might prove to be a drag on their candidacies.

McDonnell said he had tried to get Palin to campaign for him earlier in the year but "she was in such incredible demand" that "we were just not able to work out anything." Once she stepped down as governor and might have had more time on her hands, he said, "We had pretty much arranged all of the folks we had for the home stretch."

Although statewide campaigns try to plan their schedules well in advance, it is highly unusual to have no flexibility to schedule even on short notice a surrogate with the drawing power of someone like Palin. But McDonnell said, "We pretty much had our strategy set at that point."

Christie explained that he didn't seek her help because he was highly selective about the use of outside surrogates. He asked only outsiders with whom he had a strong personal relationship or who had faced circumstances similar those in New Jersey and could explain how Republicans ideas and philosophy had helped in governing.

That limited the number of prominent GOP officials working for him in New Jersey, he said, to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Their comments came during a press briefing at the Republican Governors Association meeting devoted to an assessment of how the two candidates had won their races. Both credited the RGA with significant financial and strategic assistance at critical stages of their campaigns.

Their twin victories -- and the support they received from independent voters -- have been interpreted by Republicans as evidence that the agenda of President Obama and the Democrats has caused a voter backlash. But Christie and McDonnell offered different interpretations of the national implications of their races.

"I don't think the national debate played much of a role in New Jersey," Christie said. He cited the unpopularity of current Gov. Jon Corzine as the defining issue in the race there. National issues were "background music" to the competing visions he and Corzine put before the voters, he said.

RGA executive director Nick Ayres said early television ads in Virginia paid for by his committee had helped establish McDonnell on the issues and that independent-expenditure advertising attacking rival Creigh Deeds early in the fall had "devastated" the Democratic nominee's image and turned the race around in Northern Virginia.

"That's really where the dynamics of the race changed," said Glen Bolger, who did the polling for McDonnell's campaign.

In New Jersey, where the RGA could not contribute directly to Christie's campaign, Bolger explained, RGA chairman Haley Barbour had insisted on spending early money on independent-expenditure ads that helped redress the imbalance the amount of money Christie and Corzine were spending. The RGA ads, he claimed, prevented Corzine from defining the race on favorable terms.

McDonnell said that, while Virginia issues were central to his victory, he believed that his opposition to the Democrats' climate change bill and to a piece of union-backed legislation "made a difference" in his race.

McDonnell also sought to distance himself from recent comments by televangelist Pat Robertson, who gave money to his campaign and who in the wake of the killings at Fort Hood called Islam a "violent political system" rather than a religion. The alleged shooter at Fort Hood, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, is Muslim.

"I think people are entitled under the First Amendment to express whatever opinions they may have," McDonnell said. "But I can only say as governor of Virginia, I intend to have an inclusive administration."

He added that he does not agree with Robertson's characterization of the Muslim faith. "I think there are people of various religions that do some violent things and they ought to be judged by their acts," he said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  November 19, 2009; 9:03 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , 50 States , Sarah Palin  
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Chris Christie won the election in NJ with another last-minute Republican BIG LIE telephone barrage implying that Jon Corzine has resurrected his "Monetize the Turnpike" disaster. Not true, of course, but it doesn't matter to Repugnicans whether they lie to win - just that they win. I will be very surprised if Christie truly addresses NJs really big issue - the entrenched - even legalized - political hog wallow the State has become.

Posted by: lhorner | November 21, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Liberal Parenting Policies

Check Em Out and Weep
Also google Boston Children's Hospital Sex Change Clinic
Also google You're Teaching My Child What?
Also google Planned Parenthood

These Political Correctness policies will be the death of us All

Posted by: boski66 | November 20, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Progressive Liberal Parenting Policies
Check Em Out and Weep
Also google Boston Children's Hospital Sex Change Clinic
Also google You're Teaching My Child What?
Also google Planned Parenthood

Liberal Parenting Policies Will Kill us All

Posted by: boski66 | November 20, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

boski66 - I think you left off one 6 there. Surely it should really read boski666. You seem to be really good about saying bad things about democrats but democrats aren't supposed to have the same right? And have you forgotten the republican party is the master of smear campaigns? You know, like that false swiftboater garbage? Or so many others? Sorry, you can't have it both ways. And as someone who knows Sarah Palin, who saw the destruction she did to the town I lived in when she was mayor, as someone who loves the state she came from, I have a right to say anything I please. And when you consider that running for office seems to open you up for anything- she accepted the nomination to run as vice president and has continued to put herself out there in the public eye, she, and you, can't b *tch now. And her book, which is full of lies, lies that can and are being disproved, she really can't complain. For someone who wears her "religion" on her sleeve, she can't seem to be truthful. Evidently it runs in the party, because both of the new governors turned down her offers to campaign for them. They just don't want to admit it now just in case she becomes important to the party. What liars, all of them.

Posted by: alaskan2 | November 20, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Sarah is the kind of woman that any family would be proud of, that is why liberals can't stand her, most liberals can't find that kind of sweetness so they attack her with their vileness that they are so accustomed to. If you take notice one liberal, I won't mention her name said Sarah only likes God's Plan if it goes along with hers. This speaks volumes of how this so-called woman doesn't even KNOW God, nor anything about the real Sarah. It is so heartbreaking to think of how low the dems will go. But then again that pretty much sums up a liberal so-called woman. The men are so course much more vile, as they will attack Sarah and her entire family. Just imagine if they ever thought of sitting back and taken notice of themselves. They would discover what truly sick people they are, oh course they would never guess as they wouldn't even mind if their parents were Nurse Fancy Nancy, with her professional advice Abortion is like having your tonsils out.
And of course Father Quite Frankly Barney who will legislate Pot. See the difference? You be the Judge. Or God himself!

Posted by: boski66 | November 20, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

While there may be some truth in the comments about the potential for Palin to poison the independents and democrats for McDonnell, it seems like Deeds and the WaPo used spontaneous combustion to turn this into a runaway.

From afar (the Midwest), Deeds' campaign and especially his lackluster appearances seemed to doom his chances. Couldn't he have changed his first name to "Good?" Then he could have kept his mouth shut and just smiled.

Posted by: bulldog6 | November 20, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Not really, JRM2. For instance, the "WHY" in McDonnell case was that he had tried to get Palin to campaign for him earlier in the year but "she was in such incredible demand" that "we were just not able to work out anything." Once she stepped down as governor and might have had more time on her hands, he said, "We had pretty much arranged all of the folks we had for the home stretch."

By that time, you don't use a machine gun to kill a gnat.

Posted by: JakeD | November 19, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

The title of the article is about all you need to know.

Posted by: JRM2 | November 19, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse


So you are calling them liars?

Posted by: JakeD | November 19, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

What a load of Bull, McDonald didn't want her near him to remind voters that they both held the same social beliefs and she would have been poisen in Northern Virginia.
In NJ Palin would have been the kiss of death to Christie. Who would believe politicians lying!

Posted by: jtemple1 | November 19, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The explanations aren't entirely believable. Minnesota is not a state with similar challenges to New Jersey, other than the general economic climate. Or at least I don't buy that MN has these similarities and Alaska doesn't. If anything MN and AK are more similar to each other than NJ to either.

NJ is a blue state and Palin would be a drag. McDonnell explicitly appealed to NoVa where Palin would play badly overall. Still, you don't want to tick off Sarah...


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 19, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Look. You are not going to get a truthful, straight answer from any republican on the subject of Sarah Palin. Most of them would like to see her disappear but they can't say that because her most loyal supporters are among that very crowd of thuggish teabaggers and townhallers who can make life miserable for republicans.

There are only two ways this ends and neither prospect is good for republicans. The party accepts her as a frontrunner for the 2012 nomination, in which case they alienate all of those independents who simply cannot abide her. Or the party rejects her in which case it alienates that 15% of hard right Palin anal huffers who think the sun rises and sets in her hiney.

Posted by: jaxas | November 19, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Very telling comments by Mr. Christie. More than a few people would be wise to listen. And I somehow doubt anti-union sentiment had much to do with McDonnell winning. That was Deed's nothing of a campaing at work.

Posted by: EricS2 | November 19, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

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