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Palin, McCain vow to fight Obama’s agenda

From the Arizona Republic:

Ronald J. Hansen
The Arizona Republic

TUCSON — Invoking the same opponent, and summoning an energy reminiscent of their 2008 presidential run, Sarah Palin and John McCain pledged Friday to stand against President Barack Obama’s agenda.

In their first joint appearance since that campaign, Palin helped bring an estimated 5,000 to the Pima County Fairgrounds and national media attention to McCain’s surprisingly competitive Senate primary.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain at a campaing rally Friday at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain at a campaign rally Friday at the Pima County Fairgrounds./Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic

// slideshow Photos from Tucson event

Focusing on Washington themes rather than his competitor, former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Palin exhorted the crowd to “send the maverick back to the U.S. Senate” to fight the newly enacted health-care legislation and keep America safe.

As she has seen in Alaska, she said, “only dead fish go with the flow,” which she said McCain would not do.

“I was pretty excited when John McCain asked me to join him on the campaign trail this go-around here in Arizona,” she added. “I couldn’t wait to get some of the McCain-Palin team back together again … I think this go-around, when all of the votes are tallied, I think he’s going to win this one.”

For his part, McCain condemned the health-care legislation passed with support of Obama and Democrats in Congress. He called its passage “sleazy Chicago-style sausage-making.”

“It’s going to be repealed and replaced, and it’s going to be done soon,” he added.

The appearance was a national political curiosity and a likely boost to McCain’s primary prospects.

Many who are ambivalent about McCain’s conservative credentials said they came just to see the former Alaska governor, who has remained a luminary in Republican circles.

Palin is a star among “tea party” activists, a bloc Hayworth has aggressively courted and whose support has likely helped move him within double digits in recent polls.

But it’s unclear how much impact her McCain endorsement will have on those who have supported Hayworth.

Jennifer Leslie, a Tucson resident who supports Palin and Hayworth, attended the McCain event with about two dozen others to welcome Palin but also show their votes won’t be changed.

“A lot of people say (Palin’s support for McCain) is political payback,” said Leslie, 41. “I have not heard one person say they’re swayed.”

Darrell West, director of governance studies for the Washington-based Brookings Institution, also questioned the effect of Palin’s political coattails.

Last year she publicly supported the Conservative Party candidate over a Republican in a New York congressional race that went to a Democrat in an upset. But Palin also supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who easily won a Republican primary challenge that once figured to be competitive.

Appearing with McCain helps her sell copies of her book and keeps her in the public eye if she decides to make a presidential run of her own, West said.

“I don’t see any downside to this for her,” he said.

Cal Jillson, a political-science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Palin should help blunt some Hayworth support among tea partiers, and adds energy to McCain’s campaign, as she did two years ago.

“Clearly, John McCain needs Sarah Palin to secure the base against J.D. Hayworth,” Jillson said. “He needs her to come in and attest to his conservative credentials, sad as that may be at this stage of his career.”

Their appearance Friday gave no indication of the post-election sniping that threatened their political bond.

In a January interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Steve Schmidt, McCain’s campaign manager, said Palin was dishonest during the presidential campaign and was unprepared for the national stage. For her part, Palin has said McCain’s campaign was hampered by his aides and their slow response to the economic meltdown in 2008.

Despite the differences, McCain and Palin have offered unstinting public support for each other since the presidential election.

That was repeated on Friday, with Palin offering plenty of praise. Neither McCain nor Palin mentioned Hayworth directly, and Palin cast McCain as compatible with the tea party movement.

“I admired his tireless crusade against the old pork barrel-spending, earmarking, backroom-dealing ways of D.C. that make a whole lot of us pretty ill … Today those issues are at the heart of a conservative movement that’s sweeping this country.

“It’s a beautiful grass-roots movement that’s putting government back on the side of the people … It’s the Tea Party movement, and I want to clear the air right now. Everybody supporting John McCain here today, we are all part of that movement.”

Another figure from McCain’s 2008 campaign was scheduled to appear in Arizona Friday: Samuel Wurzelbacher, the Ohio everyman better known as Joe the Plumber.

McCain and Palin are scheduled to make another joint appearance Saturday at Dobson High School in Mesa.

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