Meg Stapleton: Bob McDonnell Personally Asked for Sarah Palin’s Help, then Changed His Mind

Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Attorney General, Bob McDonnell along with his daughter Jeanine, during the 2009 Virginia State Republican Convention.

Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Attorney General, Bob McDonnell along with his daughter Jeanine during the 2009 Virginia State Republican Convention.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell repeatedly and personally asked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for help this summer in his campaign for Virginia governor, a Palin spokeswoman said.

But by late August, Palin learned that the McDonnell campaign no longer wanted her assistance, Palin adviser Meg Stapleton said in an interview tonight.

Earlier this week, McDonnell reacted with a bit of sarcasm when asked whether Palin would be campaigning with him. “There was a time earlier on when she was governor when I thought she would come here,” he said. “But I think she seems to be busy with books and other things like that. We’ve still got about 20 different events scheduled down the road and she’s not one of them.”

But Stapleton says Palin is not too busy to come. She says that her boss offered to help McDonnell numerous times both in conversations with him and his campaign and through the Republican Governors Association.

“The Governor, SarahPAC, and I have all communicated to the candidate, the campaign and to the RGA the Governor’s continued willingness to assist in any way possible – even as recently as two weeks ago,” Stapleton said.

Palin drew enormous, enthusiastic crowds in Virginia while campaigning as Sen. John McCain’s runningmate during the presidential election last year. But she is a polarizing figure that could turn off independent voters. In the summer, she drew criticism for abruptly resigning as governor and later insisting that the healthcare bill being considered by Congress would cause the creation of “death panels.”

McDonnell decision to back away from Palin is typical of his attempt to moderate himself. In his comments this week, he tried to communicate that he did not want to be seen with Palin without saying that it was his decision.

In recent months, he has welcomed a succession of other national GOP figures to Virginia including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin declined to comment except to say: “We do not anticipate Governor Palin campaigning in Virginia at this point. She has donated to our campaign, and we appreciate her support of Bob McDonnell, and her historic run as the Republican nominee for vice president.”

McDonnell and Palin first spoke about her helping him at the RGA’s annual meeting in Miami in December 2008, and Stapleton said their staffs spoke several times again before the general election began in June.

“Prior to June 2009, there were numerous conversations and requests for assistance,” Stapleton said. “We said, ‘of course!’ ”

In June, Palin and McDonnell spoke at the the House-Senate GOP fundraising dinner in Washington. McDonnell appeared at Palin’s table to ask for assistance and she agreed, Stapleton said. McDonnell also spoke to Stapleton, handing her his business card and again asking for assistance, she said. She reiterated her promises to help McDonnell and asked his campaign to contact her, she said.

In August, Palin’s staff was notified by a Northern Virginia Republican operative that McDonnell no longer wanted help, Stapleton said.

Later that month, a staffer from Palin’s PAC personally handed a $2,500 check to McDonnell at a Virginia fundraiser, Stapleton said. She said Palin also planned to donate the expense of her travel from Alaska to Virginia for a future campaign event.

Last month, Stapleton said she contacted the RGA to reiterate Palin’s commitment to help McDonnell.

“Make no mistake, the Governor will move mountains if the campaign wishes,” Stapleton said.

Anita Kumar
The Washington Post

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