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44: McDonnell on how he won, Robertson comments

(Excerpted from the 44 blog.)

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."

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.

Read the full post by Dan Balz.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  November 19, 2009; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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