Does Sarah Palin make GOP governors nervous?

The two newest Republican governors offer weak explanations for why they didn't campaign with the former Alaska one

Published November 19, 2009 2:19AM (EST)

Republican governors gathered outside Austin Wednesday to crow about their two newest colleagues in Virginia and New Jersey. But one of their newest ex-colleagues was also busy Wednesday, kicking off her book tour. And like anywhere in politics lately, Sarah Palin was inescapable at the Republican Governors Association meeting.

Both of the GOP candidates who won gubernatorial elections this month, Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, had avoided Palin during their campaigns. And yet the crowd she drew for a book event in Grand Rapids, Mich., made it clear that Republicans can't really afford to alienate her supporters. So McDonnell and Christie offered some wan excuses for why they hadn't embraced Wasilla High School's most famous alumna as they sought office.

"The people I asked to come in to campaign for me were either someone like Mayor [Rudy] Giuliani, who I had known for the better part of a decade, or two governors who had faced the same kind of things and could talk about those issues in an intelligent way to show how Republican ideas had fixed those fiscal problems in their states," Christie said. Those two governors were Mitt Romney, the ex-governor of Massachusetts, and Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty. Presumably, Christie didn't mean to imply that Palin wouldn't have been able to talk about issues in an intelligent way.

McDonnell said it was just a matter of the schedule. "She was in such incredible demand, frankly, for the longest time we were just not able to work out anything for her to come in," he said. "And then, after she decided to leave office [in July], we had pretty much already arranged all of the folks that we had for the home stretch for fundraisers -- including several current and former governors -- so we pretty much had our strategy set at that point." Because, you know, campaigns tend to plan everything out months in advance and not make any last-minute additions to the schedule once it's set.

The RGA, though, isn't above using Palin to raise money, even if its newest members were a little wary of how the independent voters they were trying to appeal to would respond to her. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the group's chairman, told reporters Tuesday that the RGA was happy to accept Palin's offer to sell them a number of copies of her new book, "Going Rogue," at a discounted price -- the better to auction them off to donors with.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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