Vulnerable GOPs want Palin to stay home

Republicans facing tough elections in 2010 don’t want Sarah Palin campaigning with them.

Though the soon-to-be-former Alaska governor is seen as popular with the conservative grass roots, several Republicans said she’d help them by staying home in Wasilla.

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Several of these Republicans hail from districts or states carried in 2008 by President Obama, a frequent target of Palin’s criticism. Republicans must keep these districts and win others where Obama is popular if they are to gain seats next year.

GOP Rep. Lee Terry (Neb.), who squeaked out a victory despite his district’s overwhelming turnout for Obama, said he’d rather have House colleagues campaign for him than Palin.

“There’s others that I would have come in and campaign and most of them would be my colleagues in the House,” Terry said.

Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Northern Virginia, which is increasingly becoming Democratic territory, offered caution when asked whether he’d welcome a Palin fundraiser.

“I don’t generally need people from outside my district to do a fundraiser,” Wolf said.

Several other lawmakers indicated a wariness about accepting help from Palin, but did not want to criticize the GOP’s vice presidential candidate from last year. They said Palin could hurt them by firing up Democrats.

An unnamed GOP lawmaker representing a district that Obama carried in 2008 told The Hill that if Palin came into his district, his opponent would “probably be doing a dance of joy.”

The head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm said he’d welcome Palin’s involvement in the 2010 campaign.

“We hope that she will be part of the future debate on the direction of the country,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Several Republicans running for statewide office over the next two years in areas where Obama is popular suggested Palin could hurt the party’s candidates.

Centrist Republican Rep. Mike Castle (Del.) said that Palin’s polarizing views, coupled with her surprise decision to resign with 18 months left in her term, would make it difficult to ask for her help.

“I think the combination of her being very conservative and the fact that what she did has concerned some of us would mean that people may be hesitant about having her in [to campaign],” said Castle, who is considering a bid for Senate in 2010.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R), who is running to become Michigan’s governor in 2010, said he needs a better explanation of why Palin suddenly quit her job before he’d want her campaigning with him in Michigan.

“I’ve thought about it but I don’t have an answer,” Hoekstra said. Before making a call on a Palin visit, he said, “I need a better understanding of why she quit. Why quit with a year and a half to go?”

Earlier this week, New Jersey’s state GOP chairman said that organizers “don’t have any plans” to have Palin stump on behalf of candidate Chris Christie. New Jersey, which overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008, will elect a governor this fall, and polls show Christie in the lead.

For some House members, it could be tough to turn down Palin, who may be capable of raking in money for Republicans. Palin often drew much larger crowds in the fall of 2008 than did Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the top of the GOP ticket.

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Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), a top Democratic target who has survived two tough elections, took a tempered stance on whether he’d welcome help from Palin.

“How could I say this? I’d say that we have a list of people that we would like to invite and we’re looking at that list. We’ve made some calls to people. I think in my district you really have to look at who can help raise the most money and that’s what it’s really all about,” he said.

Senate hopeful Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who faces a tough election in Missouri, said he wants Palin to come to his state.

“I think she would be helpful,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also said he’d welcome a Palin visit.

“The answer is, if she can raise a lot of money for me, yes,” Grassley told reporters Tuesday. Grassley, who is up for reelection in 2010, said he remembers Palin having a big Iowa following during the 2008 campaign.

“[A]t three events I spent with her in Iowa during the last campaign, she had bigger turnouts than McCain had,” Grassley said.

Since the Iowa caucuses are the first test for Republican presidential candidates in 2012, a visit could also be beneficial to Palin, whom many still think could lead a future GOP ticket.