ABC News' George Stephanopoulos reports: Stakes are high for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin going into tonight's vice presidential debate with Sen. Joe Biden, D-Dela., with the latest poll finding she has become a drag on the Republican ticket.
Any mistake or gaffe by Palin could be fatal with a new poll finding voters are now questioning their commitment to Republican presidential candidate John McCain because of her.
About one third of likely voters, 32 percent of likely voters now say Palin makes it less likely they'll vote for McCain, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll released today.
Palin is beginning to have a big credibility problem: 60 percent of Americans are now doubting her qualifications for office, up 15 points from an ABC/Post poll last month.
The poll found a minority of likely voters, 35 percent, believe she is experience enough to be president.
The ABC poll also suggests that questions about Palin are reinforcing concerns about McCain's age. Almost half of voters, 48 percent, now say the senator's age is a worry -- a new high -- and 85 percent of that group say that Palin is not qualified to serve as President.
It hasn't been an easy month for the Alaska governor. Palin initially boosted McCain's poll numbers, but after refusing to speak to the media she gave a few select interviews where she gave muddled responses.
Contributing to her perception problem: more voters have likely seen the Saturday Night Live sketches making fun of her rather than hearing her speak on the campaign trail.
It's all cementing in the minds of voters a preconceived notion that Palin is ill-prepared for the job.
Biden's poll numbers contrast starkly with Palin's with 75 percent of Americans saying he understands complex issues, 70 percent saying he has suitable experience to take over as president if necessary, and just 13 percent saying the Delaware senator makes them less apt to support Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
In his debate against Palin tonight, Biden will try to show gracious restraint, and focus his attacks against McCain, Obama campaign aides tell ABC News.
Meanwhile McCain campaign aides say Palin will attempt to aggressively take the fight to Obama.
Palin doesn't take kindly to being criticized - she has gone out her way to ruin people who she feels have crossed her ....
Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn't, I should "off" myself.
Those are a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.
Who says public discourse hasn't deteriorated?
The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I'm familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.
Some of my usual readers feel betrayed because I previously have written favorably of Palin. By changing my mind and saying so, I am viewed as a traitor to the Republican Party -- not a "true" conservative.
Obviously, I'm not employed by the GOP. If I were, the party is seriously in arrears. But what is a true conservative? One who doesn't think or question and who marches in lock step with The Party?
The emotional pitch of many comments suggests an overinvestment in Palin as "one of us."
Palin's fans say they like her specifically because she's an outsider, not part of the Washington club. When she flubs during interviews, they identify with that, too. "You see the lack of polish, we applaud it," one reader wrote.
Of course, there's a difference between a lack of polish and a lack of coherence. Some of Palin's interview responses can't even be critiqued on their merits because they're so nonsensical. But even that is someone else's fault, say Palin supporters. The media make her uncomfortable.
Or, it's the fault of those slick politicos who are overmanaging her. "Let Sarah be Sarah" has become the latest rallying cry among my colleagues on the right. She'll be fine if we just leave her alone, they say. Between prayers, I might add.
Not all my mail has been mean-spirited. A fair number of the writers politely expressed disappointment; others, relief and gratitude. Still others offered reasonable arguments aimed at changing my mind. I may yet.
In the meantime, though, I would note that this assault and my decision to write about it aren't really about me -- or even Sarah Palin. The mailbag is about us, our country, and what we really believe.
That we have become a partisan nation is no secret. This week has provided a vivid example of where rabid partisanship leads with the failure of Congress to pass a bailout bill vitally needed to keep our economy from unraveling.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a partisan speech, blaming the credit crisis on the Bush administration (omitting the Clinton administration's role in launching the subprime lending debacle). Republicans responded by voting against the bill.
Everyone's to blame, by the way.
But when you have been in power for eight years - it's your hands on the wheel - sorry - i.e. that’s the Republicans.
And subprime mortgages will continue - but need to be better regulated - against such things as the lying on the application form - by unscrupulous mortgage brokers - in addition people should be given all the facts about their mortgages - up front - especially where the low interests starters or incentives are concerned.
Such extreme partisanship has a crippling effect on government, which may be desirable at times, but not now. More important in the long term is the less tangible effect of stifling free speech. My mail paints an ugly picture and a bleak future if we do not soon correct ourselves.
The picture is this: Anyone who dares express an opinion that runs counter to the party line will be silenced. That doesn't sound American to me, but Stalin would approve.
Readers have every right to reject my opinion. But when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different from one's own, we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk. (I hear you, Dixie Chicks.)
I'm sure it is coincidence that, upon the Palin column's publication, a conservative organization canceled a speech I was scheduled to deliver in a few days. If I were as paranoid as the conspiracy theorists are, I might wonder whether I was being punished for speaking incorrectly.
Unfortunately, that's the way one begins to think when party loyalty is given a higher value than loyalty to bedrock principles.
Our day of reckoning may indeed be upon us. Between war and economic collapse, we have enormous challenges. It will take the best of everyone to solve them. That process begins minimally with a commitment to engage in civil discourse and a cease-fire in the war against unwelcome ideas.
In that spirit, may Sarah Palin be fearless in tomorrow's debate and speak her true mind
[/IMG]Colorado Delegate Marty Neilson, left, of Allenspark, and LeMoine Dowd, alternate delegate, of Longmont, right, wipe away tears as Karl Rove speaks about POW Bud Day, a cellmate of John McCain's, at the Colorado Republican delegates breakfast Wednesday.
[/font]Karl Rove, native son.
It's a label that gives Colorado Democrats the willies and Colorado Republicans a huge shot in the arm.
The master Republican strategist addressed Colorado's delegates at their breakfast Wednesday in a speech that combined the personal and political, as well as an another angle about John McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam.
"Fellow Coloradans," Rove began, and was immediately interrupted by whoops and hollers.
He was born at St. Joseph's Hospital in 1950 and spent the first nine years of his life in Arvada and Golden before moving out of state.
When Rove was in Denver last week to provide commentary at the Democratic National Convention, he regularly drove by his grandparents' former home in northwest Denver, where the family gathered every Sunday for fried chicken and to watch The Wonderful World of Disney.
Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, said he first met Rove in 1975 in Denver when Rove was at the College Republicans' national convention. Rove was the president.
"Since then, neither one of us has been able to find a steady job," Wadhams joked. [/FONT]
Karl Rove checks his Blackberry before speaking to the Colorado Republican delegates Wednesday.
Some find it 'jarring'
After the speech, Colorado Republicans gushed.
"Colorado can claim Dick Wadhams and Karl Rove as native sons, which is why it's so depressing that we're a swing state," said alternate Kathleen LeCrone, of Centennial.
Several Colorado Democrats said they had no idea Rove was born in Colorado.
"That's jarring," said Jefferson County commission candidate Jason Bane. "He's probably a Raiders fan."
Rove, credited as the architect behind President Bush's successful runs in 2000 and 2004, talked about his family before touching on McCain's imprisonment and Barack Obama's candidacy.
He said his grandfather worked on a road crew in the San Juans during the Depression, selling knives on consignment from the back of his highway department truck.
He eventually founded a butcher supplies company.
"My grandmother claimed they started it with a $20 bill they found in the road when they were living in a shack," he said.
"Because America is what it is, he made a wonderful life for himself and his family. It's a really remarkable story."
Gasping and crying
Rove also had the audience alternately gasping and crying when he recounted a February dinner with Bud Day, a Medal of Honor recipient who spent time with McCain in a POW camp in Vietnam.
"The Hanoi Hilton," Rove said. "No frequent flier miles."
Day appointed McCain one of the prisoners' group chaplains for one reason: He knew McCain knew the liturgy because of the fighter pilot's ability to recall what he heard and read.
Day told Rove at their dinner that he can still remember the sermon McCain gave in 1971 almost word for word.
McCain told his fellow prisoners not to pray for God to get them out of there because God didn't put them there.
Day wept as he recalled McCain's sermon, Rove said.
"(Day) said this was the most liberating message you can imagine for these people in hell, these people going through deprivation and suffering," Rove said. "It really made it possible for them to go on."
Karl Rove on
* Colorado's role in the election
"People are going to be knocking on your doors and ringing your phones. Colorado is one of the two or three most important states in this year's contest."
* Sen. Joe Lieberman's speech for McCain
"This election has had so many twists and turns. Remember where we were eight years ago, getting ready to campaign against a Gore-Lieberman ticket. That man (Lieberman). What courage."
* Democrats' claim that Barack Obama co-sponsored "landmark" nuclear legislation
"(This bill) was so much of a housekeeping measure it passed on a voice vote. It was so inconsequential that neither The Washington Post or The New York Times carried a single story about its passage."
* Obama's record
"Barack Obama, you name one big thing he's bothered to bother himself about in the last three years he's been in the U.S. Senate, and you can't come up with one."
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote in her line-item veto changes by hand in this copy of a 2008 spending bill obtained by The Washington Post.
ST. PAUL -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live.
After the legislature passed a spending bill in April, Palin went through the measure reducing and eliminating funds for programs she opposed. Inking her initials on the legislation -- "SP" -- Palin reduced funding for Covenant House Alaska by more than 20 percent, cutting funds from $5 million to $3.9 million. Covenant House is a mix of programs and shelters for troubled youths, including Passage House, which is a transitional home for teenage mothers.
According to Passage House's web site, its purpose is to provide "young mothers a place to live with their babies for up to eighteen months while they gain the necessary skills and resources to change their lives" and help teen moms "become productive, successful, independent adults who create and provide a stable environment for themselves and their families."
Palin's own daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant and has plans to wed.
"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family," Palin said in a statement released by the McCain campaign. "We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy, as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."
Earlier today the Associated Press reported that Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, opposed funding to prevent teen pregnancies, a position that Palin also took as governor. "The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support," she wrote in a 2006 questionnaire distributed among gubernatorial candidates.
Reporters asked McCain in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives and whether he supports President Bush's policy of promoting abstinence.
"Ahhh, I think I support the president's policy," McCain said.
First we have Evangelical leader James Dobson flip-flopping over the Palin choice - now a call from Rove for more party Mojo! Sell, sell, sell the McCains on 'character and decency' - he said. On the economy - well maybe we had to be there!!
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Karl Rove, the architect behind the GOP's rise to power in Texas, told state delegates Monday that the party was losing ground and that they need to "re-energize our grass roots."
"Let's admit it, we've lost a little bit of our mojo," he said at a luncheon. "We got behind in the Legislature and then we fell back a little bit."
He reminded them that, when he was a precinct chair in the late 1970s, he and other Republicans took a "systematic" approach to winning down-ballot races, not just the top of the ticket.
"Our object is not simply to win for John McCain and to win for [GOP Sen.] John Cornyn. It's to have strength up and down the ballot and to run up the numbers.
"We've got plenty of material to use and sell, but it ain't gonna get sold unless you man the phones, walk the doors, register voters and encourage everybody to take an active role in this campaign in the 63 days left."
He praised former Secretary of State Roger Williams for his "important work" in heading "Victory 2008," a GOP get-out-the-vote effort, and then touted Mr. McCain's voting and service record over Barack Obama's.
Mr. Rove said biography isn't what's important in a candidate – it's "character and decency."
He cited the McCains' adoption of Bridget, now a teenager, when she was orphaned in Bangladesh.
"Everybody in here ought to know about Bridget," he said. "This is an extraordinary couple. They're not only right on the issues, they not only have the courage and decency we need, they've got the heart and the compassion that America wants to see in their president and first lady."
Rove tries to define the debate - by setting out areas Democrats should and shouldn't talk about !!
They (Democrats) over played this from the first moment. When they put out that statement bashing her. This is everyone. This is mom, the successful small business operator, union member, outdoors woman, coach, mom of five, active in her community and takes on the big boys and becomes Governor. And they run a real risk of looking condescending, just as they did, the same crowd played these cards against Hillary Clinton, and it was a mistake.
This is a positive thing for McCain. It's a bold move, but it's also a smart political move. Now, it's a different kind of decision. ... Both candidates this year, ironically enough made not a governing decision but a campaign decision.
Correction Karl - McCain's decision for VP was a campaign decision - Obama's decision for VP was a governing decision - Obama is actually planning to lead - we are all wondering what a McCain of 70 odd plans to do if he falls ill in office - and Palin is left to govern.
Not surprisingly, the Republicans have created a few talking points for high-profile delegates and surrogates who are asked about Gov. Palin's family.
Note, too, that the Alaska delegation underwent four hours of media training on Sunday night.
These delegates are more savvy and more on-message than we might think.
Here are the talking points:
> INTERNAL DOCUMENT - NOT TO BE EMAILED BEYOND CURRENT > DISTRIBUTION LIST > > Please see the following points on Gov. Palin's family. > > * Governor Palin and her husband Todd have a loving family > and their children mean everything to them. When their > oldest daughter Bristol came to them with news that she was > expecting a child they embraced her and gave her nothing but > unconditional love and support. > > * This is a very personal matter for the family. We should > all respect the love they have for the child and the desire > all parents would have for their children's privacy. > > * The media should respect Bristol's privacy. > That's always been the tradition and practice when it > comes to the children of candidates. > > * (If pressed) The children of candidates do not choose to > run for office and be thrust into the spotlight.
Political strategist Karl Rove, freed of his White House role, is encouraging major Republican donors to give their money to organizations that operate independently of the Republican Party and are poised to spend upwards of $100 million trying to elect conservatives this fall.
Mr. Rove, the architect of President Bush's election victories, has been telling Republican benefactors across the country that giving to official Republican Party fundraising committees will not be enough this year, according to people familiar with his pitch over the past few months.
They said Mr. Rove has regularly expressed concern that Democrat-leaning organizations such as MoveOn.org and labor unions could swamp the Republican Party's money machine and overwhelm the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
Political strategist and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has been encouraging wealthy Republican donors to fund outside attack groups such as Freedom's Watch.
To counter that wave, Mr. Rove has been asking elite Republican fundraisers to pour their millions of dollars into nonparty groups like Freedom's Watch, which is gearing up to spend tens of millions of dollars to help elect conservatives - primarily Republicans - to Congress and the White House.
Freedom's Watch has purchased advertisements that help Republican candidates by emphasizing issues rather than the candidates and do so without coordinating with the Republican Party.
Independent groups such as Freedom's Watch on the right and MoveOn.org Political Action on the left will fuel much of the on-air and on-the-ground skirmishing this fall between Democratic and Republican candidates. Well-heeled donors often prefer using these organizations as conduits for their contributions because they often can remain anonymous and because the groups' expenditures are not disclosed until after they are made, if at all.
Mr. Rove declined to comment about his discussions with Republican fundraisers.
But his spokesman, Mark Corallo, acknowledged that Mr. Rove, when asked, has encouraged people to fill the coffers of groups that in effect act as adjuncts to the Republican Party.
The message, Mr. Corallo said, was: "Conservatives, when interested, ought to contribute generously to groups that advocate their goals."