- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

RICHMOND | If Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor wants Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s help this fall, his campaign isn’t saying.

Robert F. McDonnell wouldn’t comment Tuesday on whether Mrs. Palin, who abruptly announced her resignation last weekend, fits into his campaign plans.

Press inquiries are met with a noncommittal one-sentence reply from campaign spokesman Tucker Martin: “There are no announcements of any events with Governor Palin to date.”

In an online interview earlier Tuesday with ABCNews.com, Mr. McDonnell praised Mrs. Palin’s conservative credentials but stopped short of saying he wanted her to campaign for him in Virginia.

Only two states, Virginia and New Jersey, hold statewide elections for governor and other offices this fall, and Mrs. Palin is forcing campaigns in Virginia to calculate whether the number of conservative voters she energizes exceeds the number of voters she repels.

“She’s a very polarizing figure. A lot of people love her, a lot of people just as strongly dislike her. Nobody’s neutral about her,” said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

Democrats have no shortage of assets they can muster, ranging from the state’s two senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, to President Obama. And Gov. Tim Kaine, barred by Virginia law from seeking re-election, can flood the state with other big-name Democrats and millions of dollars as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

While Mr. McDonnell’s advisers ponder whether to embrace Mrs. Palin, there’s no such indecision for Republican Ken Cuccinelli, one of the state Senate’s most conservative members.

“Hey, I’ll bring in Sarah Palin; you let [Democrat] Steve Shannon bring in Nancy Pelosi,” said Mr. Cuccinelli’s chief adviser, Chris LaCivita.

“From an issues standpoint … on things like taxes, cap-and-trade, offshore drilling for natural gas and petroleum, there’s no light between us on those,” said Mr. LaCivita, a longtime Republican strategist who orchestrated the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack against Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race.

Less noticed but more important long term to the Republicans this fall is protecting its majority in the 100-seat House of Delegates. Democrats hold a two-seat Senate majority and should they retain the governor’s office and take the five Republican seats necessary to win a House majority, they would single-handedly redraw Virginia’s legislative and congressional districts, locking in their gains for years to come.

G. Paul Nardo, chief of staff to Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell, said a potential role for Mrs. Palin hasn’t been discussed yet, “but if that would help, I’m sure we wouldn’t be averse to it.”

In the battle for the House, Mrs. Palin could be an enormous fundraising boon for Republican political action committees that Mr. Howell and other Republican legislative leaders control. With no limits on campaign contributions in Virginia, that could provide a rich vein of cash for Republicans battling to keep their seats in the swing districts of Northern Virginia without alienating their moderate to left-of-center voters.

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