Liberals can sneer at Sarah Palin to their heart's content, but the former Alaska governor's star power is a supernova for GOP congressional candidates. In the first 72 hours after Palin's Facebook endorsement of Tim Burns -- now less than three weeks away from a May 18 special election in the late Jack Murtha's district -- the Pennsylvania Republican raised more than $80,000, campaign sources told me Wednesday night in Johnstown, Pa.
It's been a very good week for Burns, who was featured Tuesday on Sean Hannity's Fox News show and got a big push Wednesday from Newt Gingrich. Polls have shown the PA-12 contest "neck-and-neck," as Burns campaign manager Tadd Rupp said, but Palin's online endorsement Monday turned up the energy and focused national attention on the western Pennsylvania district. USA Today and the L.A. Times have both featured the race in the past 24 hours.
Burns' staffers were in a celebratory mood after a candidate forum last night at Westmont Hilltop High School, where Democrat Mark Critz -- a former Murtha staffer -- apologized for a misleading TV ad run by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. FactCheck.org labeled that ad false last week, saying, "For Democrats, misrepresenting an opponent's anti-tax position as an anti-jobs position is getting to be a bad habit."
Some of Palin's supporters were deeply hurt by Quin Hillyer's recent criticism, but as for me, I still remember those Pennsylvanians standing in the cold October wind. Whatever Quin or anyone else says, the 2008 vice-presidential candidate has the kind of unequalled political star power that may prove to be the GOP's most valuable asset in key campaigns during this crucial mid-term election year.
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