Saturday, October 18, 2008

ACORN Is Not Alone: Massive GOP Voter Registration Fraud Exposed in California


YPM, a Group Hired by the California Republican Party, Allegedly Deceived Dozens of Californians who Thought They Were Signing a Petition; YPM Denies Any Wrongdoing, But Similar Accusations Have Been Leveled Against the Company Elsewhere

Fraud

"I am not a Republican," insisted Karen Ashcraft, 47, a pet clinic manager from Ventura, California who said she was duped by a signature gatherer into joining the GOP. "I certainly . . . won't sign anything in front of a grocery store ever again," she said. YPM, a company hired by the California Republican Party, allegedly fooled dozens of voters into believing they were signing a petition, but instead registered them as Republicans. The firm is also under investigation for alleged voter registration fraud in Florida and Massachusetts -- and has been sued in Arizona. (Photo: Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times)


(Posted 10:30 a.m. EDT Saturday, October 18, 2008)

====================
SATURDAY NEWS EXTRA
====================

By EVAN HALPER and MICHAEL ROTHFIELD
Los Angeles Times


SACRAMENTO, California  -- Dozens of newly minted Republican voters say they were duped into joining the party by a GOP contractor with a trail of fraud complaints stretching across the country.

Voters contacted by the Los Angeles Times said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Others had no idea their registration was being changed.

"I am not a Republican," insisted Karen Ashcraft, 47, a pet-clinic manager and former Democrat from Ventura who said she was duped by a signature gatherer into joining the GOP. "I certainly . . . won't sign anything in front of a grocery store ever again."

It is a bait-and-switch scheme familiar to election experts. The firm hired by the California Republican Party -- a small company called Young Political Majors, or YPM, which operates in several states -- has been accused of using the tactic across the country.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles and Ventura counties say they are investigating complaints about the company.

YPM ALSO PROBED IN FLORIDA AND MASSACHUSETTS, SUED IN ARIZONA

Election officials and lawmakers have launched investigations into the activities of YPM workers in Florida and Massachusetts. In Arizona -- the home state of GOP presidential nominee John McCain -- the firm was recently a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit.

The firm, which a Republican Party spokesman said is paid $7 to $12 for each registration it secures, has denied any wrongdoing and says it has never been charged with a crime.

The 70,000 voters YPM has registered for the Republican Party this year will help combat the public perception that it is struggling amid Democratic gains nationally, give a boost to fundraising efforts and bolster member support for party leaders, political strategists from both parties say.

Those who were formerly Democrats may stop receiving phone calls and literature from that party, perhaps affecting its get-out-the-vote efforts. They also will be given only a Republican ballot in the next primary election if they do not switch their registration back before then.

Some also report having their registration status changed to absentee without their permission; if they show up at the polls without a ballot they may be unable to vote.

EIGHTY PERCENT OF VOTERS CONTACTED BY TIMES SAY THEY WERE MISLED

The Times randomly interviewed 46 of the hundreds of voters whose election records show they were recently re-registered as Republicans by YPM, and 37 of them -- more than 80 percent -- said that they were misled into making the change or that it was done without their knowledge.

Lydia Laws, a Palm Springs retiree, said she was angry to find recently that her registration had been switched from Democrat to Republican.

Laws said the YPM staffer who instructed her to identify herself on a petition as a Republican assured her that it was a formality, and that her registration would not be changed. Later, a card showed up in the mail saying she had joined the GOP.

"I said, 'No, no, no. That's not right,' " Laws said.

It all sounds familiar to Beverly Hill, a Democrat and the former election supervisor in Florida's Alachua County. About 200 voters -- mostly college students -- were unwittingly registered as Republicans there in 2004 by YPM staffers using the same tactic, Hill said.

"It is just incredible that this can keep happening election after election," she said.

YPM, GOP OFFICIALS 'SURPRISED' BY COMPLAINTS

YPM and Republican Party officials said they were surprised by the complaints. The officials said the signature gatherers wear shirts bearing the Republican symbol, an elephant -- a contention disputed by some of the voters interviewed.

Every person registered signs an affidavit confirming they voluntarily joined the GOP, party leaders said. "It does the state party no good to register people in a party they don't want to be in," said Hector Barajas, communications director for the California Republican Party.

The document that voters thought was an initiative petition has no legal implications at all. YPM founder Mark Jacoby said the petition was clearly labeled as a "plebiscite," which does nothing more than show public support.

He also said that plainclothes investigators for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, have conducted multiple spot checks and told his firm it is doing nothing improper. "Every time, they gave us a thumbs-up," Jacoby said. "People are not being tricked."

But Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said the agency "does not give an OK or seal of approval to voter registration groups."

Two years ago, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas charged 12 workers for another petitioning firm hired by the local Republican Party with fraudulently registering voters as Republican.

CALIFORNIA FRAUD EXPOSED AMID MAJOR ATTENTION ON ACORN

Democratic registration drives have also caught the attention of law enforcement officials.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, a national nonprofit that recruits mostly Democratic voters, is being investigated by the FBI for filing fake registrations in multiple states during the current presidential campaign. In April, eight ACORN officials in St. Louis pleaded guilty to federal election fraud for submitting false registration cards in 2006.

In California, signature-gatherers are prohibited by law from misleading voters about what they are signing. "You can't lie to someone to procure their signature," said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in election law.

YPM SUED IN ARIZONA FOR FRAUDULENT SIGNATURE GATHERING

Civil rights activists recently filed a lawsuit in Arizona accusing YPM of deceiving residents to get signatures for a ballot measure that would have prohibited affirmative action by that state. The lawsuit was dropped after supporters of the measure pulled it from the ballot.

In Massachusetts, former YPM worker Angela McElroy testified at a legislative hearing in 2004 that she had tricked voters into signing a ballot measure to ban gay marriage. She said she told voters they were signing in favor of a measure to allow alcoholic drinks to be sold in supermarkets.

YPM's Jacoby said McElroy was on loan to another signature-gathering company at the time the alleged deception took place.

CALIFORNIA VOTERS TELL HOW THEY WERE DUPED

Jose Aguilera, a 48-year-old math teacher from Ventura whose registration was recently changed from Democrat to Republican, said he signed the child-molester petition outside an Albertsons supermarket.

He said he was asked to sign a second document but not told that it would change his registration. "Somehow, the guy pulled out something else and I signed it," he said.

Ashcraft, the pet-clinic manager, said she knew that she could still vote in November for whichever presidential candidate she supports -- in her case, Democrat Barack Obama.

"I just don't like being lied to," she said.

Janett Lemaire, 54, said she told a signature-gatherer in the small Riverside County town of Desert Edge, "I've been a Democrat all my life and I want to stay that way."

But the man "said this has nothing to do with changing how you are registered," Lemaire said. "Then I get a notice in the mail saying I am a Republican. . . . I was very angry."

# # #

Volume III, Number 67
Saturday News Extra Copyright 2008, Los Angeles Times.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.








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Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain's Refusal to Raise Rev. Wright Issue Deepens Rift Between Nominee, Right Wing


Palin and Other Conservatives Insist that Obama's Ties to Former Pastor Are 'Fair Game' for Attack, But McCain Vetoes It as Too Racially Inflammatory; Meanwhile, 'Troopergate' Probe Widens its Scope to Look at Others in Alaska Governor's Administration and Fired Top Cop Monegan Accuses Palin of Smear Campaign Against Him

Barack Obama (left) listens to John McCain during the final ...

Republican presidential nominee John McCain (right) gestures while making a point during the third and final debate Wednesday night against his Democratic rival, Barack Obama. McCain had promised to bring up Obama's association with former 1960s radical William Ayres -- and he made good on his promise. But conservatives both inside and outside the Republican Party are angry at McCain for his steadfast refusal to also bring up Obama's relationship with his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. McCain fears that to do so would almost certainly trigger a backlash, with his campaign accused of deliberately playing the "race card" against Obama. (Pool photo by Gary Hershorn/Agence France-Presse)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. Thursday, October 16, 2008)

By SKEETER SANDERS


Republican presidential nominee John McCain had promised to bring up his Democratic rival Barack Obama's relationship with former 1960s radical William Ayres at Wednesday night's final debate between them in New York.

And the Arizona senator made good on his promise. Indeed, McCain went for Obama's jugular as the Republican sought to revive his flagging White House hopes, demanding to know the full extent of Obama's ties with Ayers -- echoing campaign commercials he has run to try and raise doubts about Obama's fitness to serve.

Obama promptly branded McCain's attack a diversion from the number-one issue on the minds of the voters: the country's worsening economy. "The fact that this [Ayres] has become such an important part of your campaign, Senator McCain, says more about your campaign than it says about me," the Illinois senator shot back.

Ayers, who was a founding member of the violent Weather Underground -- whose campaign of bombings took place when Obama was only eight years old -- hosted a meet-the-candidate event for Obama when he ran for the Illinois state Senate in 1996. Ayres is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Confronted with a new CBS News/New York Times poll showing Obama soaring to his biggest lead yet -- a hefty 14 points -- as Americans worry about the country's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, McCain had little choice but to go on the offensive in the debate by bringing up Ayres.

But if you watched the debate, you may have noticed that there was one issue that McCain did not bring up: Obama's more than 20-year friendship with his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He has steadfastly refused to do so throughout the campaign -- and his vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin and GOP conservatives are furious with the Arizona senator for not allowing them to do so on his behalf, sources within the McCain campaign told The 'Skeeter Bites Report.

With just over two weeks remaining before the November 4 election and McCain falling farther behind Obama in the polls, Palin and several top campaign officials -- as well as hard-line conservatives both inside and outside the Republican Party -- are insisting that an all-out attack on Obama's relationship with Wright is the only option McCain has left to cast doubts in voters' minds about his opponent, the sources said.

Meanwhile, fallout from an Alaska state investigator's report that found Palin violated a state ethics law by exerting pressure to have her former brother-in-law fired from the state police has ensured that the "Troopergate" scandal, rather than fade away, will continue to cast a shadow over the Alaska governor -- and may soon drag down others in Palin's administration.

MCCAIN DETERMINED NOT TO BE SEEN AS RACIST FOR BRINGING UP WRIGHT

Confronted with new opinion polls showing the sour economy trumping every other issue -- and his campaign's attacks on Obama over his relationship with Ayres backfiring -- McCain has steadfastly refused to bring up the Wright issue and imposed an ironclad ban on his campaign bringing it up, either, deepening a rift between himself and conservatives.

The Arizona senator has made no secret of his fear that to bring up Wright now -- with Obama enjoying a widening double-digit lead over McCain in the polls and on track to make history as the first African-American to be elected president -- would almost certainly be seen as a last-minute desperation move and trigger accusations of McCain playing the "race card" against his opponent.

McCain is determined not to be seen as a racist, which is why he moved forcefully last Friday to extinguish a wildfire of increasingly inflammatory epithets against Obama among his more hard-line conservative supporters, including shouts "Terrorist!," "Off with his head!" and "Kill him!" at campaign rallies in recent days -- including a dramatic confrontation with a woman who told the Arizona senator to his face at a town hall-style meeting in Minnesota that she didn't trust Obama because she believed he is "an Arab."

For McCain, it was imperative for him to tamp down the angry insults quickly, before they degenerated into blatantly racist invectives or worse. "There’s a slippery slope in politics on the racial divide, and Senator McCain made it very clear early on that he did not want to get into that area," a top Republican official told the Politico.com Web site. "I don’t want to be known as a racist and McCain doesn’t want to be known as a racist candidate.

"McCain felt it [bringing up Wright] would be sensed as racially insensitive,” the official continued. “But more important is that McCain thinks that the bringing of racial religious preaching in black churches into the campaign would potentially have grave consequences for civil society in the United States.”

Indeed, McCain actually defended Obama over Wright's comments last March as the controversy erupted. Appearing on the Fox News talk show "Hannity & Colmes," McCain told conservative co-host Sean Hannity that "when people support you, it doesn’t mean that you support everything [they] say. Obviously, those words and those statements [by Wright] are statements that none of us would associate ourselves with. And I don’t believe that Senator Obama would support any of those... I do know Senator Obama. He does not share those views."

Perhaps McCain was reminded of what he told Hannity before he confronted his supporters last week.

PALIN, CONSERVATIVES DETERMINED TO MAKE WRIGHT AN ISSUE

McCain's refusal to bring up the Wright issue has prompted some hard-line conservatives to scramble to find an independent organization -- a so-called "527" group -- to raise it in a last-minute blitz of TV ads. But with time running short and the Obama campaign armed with a nearly $90 million war chest and the most formidable rapid-response team in the history of modern American politics, such an effort is doubtful.

Palin adamantly insists that Wright is fair game and has made no secret of her displeasure with McCain's refusal to bring up Obama's controversial ex-pastor, who generated a firestorm last February over a sermon about the 9/11 terrorist attacks captured on a YouTube video in which he roared, "No! I don't say 'God Bless America!' I say 'God damn America!'."

In a September interview with conservative New York Times columnist William Kristol, Palin said she didn't know why "that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and [for Obama] to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that -- with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave -- to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up."

OBAMA CONDEMNED WRIGHT'S 'INCENDIARY' LANGUAGE, QUIT CHURCH AFTER EX-PASTOR'S PUT-DOWN

In a now-famous speech on race, delivered in Philadelphia in March, Obama condemned Wright’s use of "incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike."

But when Wright broke his public silence in April with a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, in which he defended his sermons, he delivered what many interpreted as a flat-out put-down of the Illinois senator. "I said to Barack Obama last year, 'If you get elected November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.'"

Obama and his wife Michelle quit Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ in June "with some sadness." Obama said it had become clear statements made at the church by Wright "will be imputed to me, even if they conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles."

'TROOPERGATE' PROBE NOW LOOKING AT OTHER ETHICS COMPLAINTS AGAINST PALIN, AIDES

Meanwhile, Palin's problems back home in Alaska with the "Troopergate" scandal refused to go away, as the state's Personnel Board unexpectedly widened its probe Tuesday into Palin's controversial firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan to include other ethics complaints against the governor and an examination of actions by other state employees, according to the independent counsel hired by the board to investigate the case.

The independent counsel, Tim Petumenos, would not identify the employees who are under investigation in the scandal. But in two recent letters describing his inquiry, he cited other ethics complaints against the governor and the involvement of other Palin administration officials.

At issue is whether Palin abused her authority as governor when she fired Monegan in July -- just a month before McCain picked her to be his running mate -- over Monegan's refusal to fire a state trooper who was embroiled in a bitter divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister.

The Alaska Legislature appointed a bipartisan panel to investigate the firing. The panel last Friday released a report by its lead investigator that concluded that while Palin acted well within her constitutional authority as governor to fire Monegan as public safety commissioner, she abused that authority and violated a state ethics law by joining her husband Todd in putting pressure on Monegan to fire her former brother-in-law, Michael Wooten, from the state police force.

While Petumenos would not disclose the other ethics complaints against Palin, at least two are already a matter of public record.

One, filed by Andree McLeod, a local political activist, charges that state rules governing its hiring practices were circumvented so that a supporter of Palin's 2006 run for governor could be hired. That case is not related to Monegan's firing.

The other, filed by the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents state police officers, alleges that trooper Wooten's personnel file was illegally breached by state officials as part of the Palin administration's drive to get Wooten fired.

John Cyr, the PSEA's executive director, said the union plans to amend its complaint to charge the administration with "harassment" of Wooten as well.

MONEGAN WANTS HEARING, MAY SUE PALIN FOR DEFAMATION

For his part, Monegan accused Palin of smearing him and has filed a formal request for a hearing to clear his name and to disprove the governor's assertion he was a "rogue" and insubordinate commissioner.

According to the request, filed by Monegan's attorney, Jeff Feldman, "Governor Palin's public statements accusing Mr. Monegan of serious misconduct were untrue and they have stigmatized his good name, severely damaged -- and continue to damage -- his reputation, and impaired his ability to pursue future professional employment in law enforcement and related fields."

Thomas Van Flein, the attorney hired by the MCcain campaign to represent Palin, disputed Monegan's claim of defamation. "We welcome the opportunity to put on all of our evidence regarding Mr. Monegan's performance," Van Flein told the Anchorage Daily News. "Whether the Personnel Board will, or can, allow this, remains unknown."

Monegan has asked the board to hold a hearing and issue public findings on whether he demonstrated a "rogue mentality" and engaged in insubordination, as Palin has charged he has.

If the Personnel Board, whose three members are all gubernatorial appointees (one of whom was reappointed by Palin last January), declines to grant Monegan a hearing, the fired public safety commissioner said he would consider taking legal action against Palin.

# # #

Volume III, Number 66
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.







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Monday, October 13, 2008

EXTRA! Hate Campaign Against Obama Triggers Rift Between McCain and Palin


GOP Vice Presidential Nominee's Determination to Raise Hot-Button 'Wedge Issues' on Campaign Trail, Rather Than Deal with Economy -- in Defiance of McCain's Wishes -- Is Driving a Wedge Between Them That Could Split the Republican Party in Two

photo

Trouble on the campaign trail? Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, arrive at the airport at Allentown, Pennsylvania for a campaign rally last Wednesday. Forced on Friday to confront open animosity among his supporters against his Democratic rival, Barack Obama because of his ethnicity and religion, McCain has tried hard over the weekend to tamp down the anger. But Palin -- a darling of the GOP's far right wing -- will have none of it, insisting on bringing up highly emotional "wedge issues" such as abortion, instead of the number-one issue on the voters' minds: the economy. And that, according to a British newspaper, is causing a rift to develop between the GOP standard-bearers that could threaten party unity. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)


(Posted 12:00 noon EDT Monday, October 13, 2008)

NOTE TO READERS: I had not planned on publishing an article today, Columbus Day. However, news has broken in a British newspaper that I felt was far too important to wait until The 'Skeeter Bites Report's next regularly-scheduled issue on Thursday.

-- Skeeter Sanders, Editor & Publisher, The 'Skeeter Bites Report

===============
SPECIAL REPORT
===============

By Sarah Baxter
The Times of London


With his electoral prospects fading by the day, Senator John McCain has fallen out with his vice-presidential running mate about the direction of his White House campaign.

McCain has become alarmed about the fury unleashed by Sarah Palin, the moose-hunting “pit bull in lipstick”, against Senator Barack Obama. Cries of “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” have accompanied the tirades by the governor of Alaska against the Democratic nominee at Republican rallies.

Mark Salter, McCain’s long-serving chief of staff, is understood to have told campaign insiders that he would prefer his boss, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, to suffer an “honorable defeat” rather than conduct a campaign that would be out of character –- and likely to lose him the election.

The 44-year-old Palin has led the character attacks on Obama in the belief that McCain may be throwing away the election and her chance of becoming vice president. Her supporters think that if the Republican ticket loses on November 4, she should run for president in 2012.

A leading Republican consultant said: “A lot of conservatives are grumbling about what a poor job McCain is doing. They are rolling their eyes and saying, "Yes, a miracle could happen, but at this rate it is all over."

PALIN ALREADY POSITIONING HERSELF FOR HER OWN RUN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE FOUR YEARS FROM NOW

“Sarah Palin is no fool," the consultant said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "She sees the same thing and wants to salvage what she can. She is positioning herself for the future. Her best days could be in front of her. She wants to look as though she was the fighter, the person with the spunk who was out there taking it to the Democrats.”

The 72-year-old McCain has encouraged voters to contrast his character with Obama’s. The campaign launched a tough television commercial last week questioning, “Who is Barack Obama?”

Frank Keating, McCain’s campaign co-chairman, last week called the Democrat a “guy off the street” and said he should admit that he had "used cocaine."

[In fact, Obama did just that -- in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams from My Father, in which he also admitted using marijuana as a teenager. But he writes that he quit using drugs altogether when he entered college in 1979 -- and there is no evidence that he has used drugs since then.]

MCCAIN FORCED TO STARE ANTI-OBAMA BIGOTRY IN THE FACE AT TOWN HALL MEETING

McCain believes the attacks have spun out of control. At a town hall-style meeting Friday in Lakeville, Minnesota, the Arizona senator became visibly angry when he was booed by his supporters for calling Obama "a decent person." He took the microphone from a woman who said she disliked Obama because he was "an Arab," telling her, "No ma’am, no ma’am."

[The woman, identified by the Reuters news agency as Gayle Quinnell, based her remark on a false but still-widely-held belief among many conservative white voters that Obama, the first African-American presidential nominee of a major American political party, is a foreign-born Muslim with ties to Islamic terrorists.

[Right-wing radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has insisted that Obama is not half-black and half white -- the son of a Kenyan-born black father and a Kansas-born white mother -- but is of Arab descent.

[Obama, who was born in Hawaii in 1961, is actually a Christian -- although he did acknowledge in his autobiography that he attended both Roman Catholic and Muslim schools during his pre-teen years living with his mother in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.]

When another questioner demanded that McCain "tell the truth about Obama," he said: "I want everybody to be respectful and let’s be sure we are."

DESPITE ARIZONA SENATOR'S PLEDGE, PALIN STEPS UP ATTACKS ON OBAMA

However, his campaign has stepped up its negative advertising against Obama, accusing him of lying about his relationship with William Ayers, the leader of the Weather Underground group responsible for bombing the Capitol and the Pentagon in the early 1970s, who is now a Chicago professor.

Palin has continued to lead the charge against Obama’s alleged lack of candor. At a rally in Wilmington, Ohio, she mocked him for attending a supporters’ meeting in Ayers’s home when he was seeking to become an Illinois state senator in 1995. "He didn’t know he launched his career in the living room of a domestic terrorist until he did know," Palin said.

"Some will say, 'Geez Sarah, it’s getting negative,'" Palin continued. "No, it’s not negativity. It’s truthfulness." The crowd bellowed its appreciation with chants of "Nobama!" and "Go Sarah Go!"

SOME REPUBLICANS WORRY PALIN HAS GONE TOO FAR

John Weaver, a former senior McCain adviser who left the campaign when it almost imploded in the summer of last year, questioned the purpose of the attacks.

"People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, that the differences with Senator Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared with Senator McCain," he said.

"And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive," Weaver added.

A McCain campaign official confirmed that there was dissension in the campaign. "There is always going to be a debate about the costs and benefits of any strategy," he said. "After November 4, the feelings of individuals will come to light. It is only natural and will be expected."

PALIN ANGRY WITH MCCAIN'S PULLOUT FROM MICHIGAN, BAN ON BRINGING UP REVEREND WRIGHT

Palin’s frustration with McCain has led to clashes over strategy. When she learned he was pulling resources from Michigan, an industrial swing state leaning heavily in Obama’s favor, she fired off an e-mail saying, "Oh come on, do we have to?" and offered to travel there with her husband Todd, a four-time winner of Alaska's 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race.

She also told Bill Kristol, the conservative columnist for The New York Times, that she wished the campaign would make more of Obama’s 20-year association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his controversial former pastor, who said, "God damn America."

[McCain has banned any discussion on Wright, fearing that his campaign would be accused by Obama supporters -- especially African-Americans -- of playing the "race card" against Obama if it did, as Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination was accused of doing during the hard-fought primary season.]

"To me, that does say something about character,” Palin said. "But you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring it up."

McCain’s allies responded by suggesting that Palin has her own pastor problems, such as the African minister who prayed to Jesus to protect her from witchcraft when she was running for governor.

[They apparently feared that it would be used against her in retaliation if the McCain camp went after Obama over Reverend Wright.]

McCain has told his campaign that attacks on religion are out of bounds. He rejected Palin’s advice to "take the gloves" off in his debate with Obama last week and did not refer to Ayers. It enabled Obama to rile McCain by asking why he did not have the nerve to attack him to his face.

[In fact, the debate rules and town hall format -- with questions asked by the audience -- effectively barred McCain from doing so].

ATTACKS ON OBAMA DROWNED OUT BY NEWS OF WORSENING ECONOMIC CRISIS

When McCain finally got round to mentioning the Weather Underground at a rally last week, he described Ayres mildly as "an old washed-up terrorist."

[By that time, the global economic crisis was almost totally dominating the news, putting the economy front and center in the minds of the voters, to the exclusion of almost everything else.]

Despite the attacks, the 47-year-old Obama increased his average poll lead last week to eight points over McCain. The assaults on his character have enabled him to criticize McCain for "stoking anger and division" when the economy is collapsing.

McCain’s nosedive in the polls has closely tracked the collapse of Wall Street and the U.S. economy, but he has yet to find a winning economic policy. His proposed emergency 180-billion-pound (300-billion-dollar U.S.) buyout of distressed mortgages has been harshly criticized by his fellow Republicans.

Karl Rove, the former White House aide, claimed the housing bailout “came across as both impulsive and badly explained” when McCain suddenly announced it during last week’s debate with Obama.

PALIN TURNING OFF CLINTON VOTERS, INDEPENDENTS; RIGHT WING FAVORS HER MORE THAN MCCAIN

A spokesman for McCain denied he and Palin had fallen out over her aggressive attacks. “Vice-presidential candidates are typically the tip of the spear and further out in front than the candidate for president. This is pretty standard fare,” he said.

However, Palin is no longer helping to attract women and independent voters to the Republican ticket. A poll for Fox News last week showed that while 47 percent of voters regard the Alaska governor favorably, 42 percent now have an unfavorable opinion of her.

Palin remains far more popular than McCain with the Republican Party's right-wing base. He regularly has to endure the spectacle of members of the audience leaving for their cars when it is his turn to speak at joint rallies.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, Palin’s many admirers were in no doubt that she should run for president next time. Nancy Ross, a hairdresser, 45, said if the Republicans lost the election, she would be cheered up by the thought of Palin as the 2012 nominee.

"I would absolutely love her to run in four years’ time. By then most of her kids will be grown," she said. "I’d like her to run against Hillary [Clinton]. She [Palin] would squash her. She is a real person and we need people like her in Washington."

Mary Ann Black, 58, a human resources director, said: "I love her. She’s so authentic." Although she thought highly of McCain as well, Black added: "Her career is just beginning and his is in the twilight."

(Additional reporting -- in brackets -- by Skeeter Sanders.)

# # #

Volume III, Number 65
Special Report Copyright 2008, Times Newspapers, Ltd.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.







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