If the tone of Karen Handel’s campaign of the last three weeks has surprised political veterans, perhaps it is because it has violated an unwritten rule – that frontrunners should present themselves as good cops.
Let the underdog play bad cop, and make the attacks.
But if Sarah Palin’s visit to Atlanta this afternoon did anything, it made clear that Handel would finish the runoff campaign as she started it – with a furious volley aimed at Nathan Deal and members of the state Legislature who back him.
Said Handel, after climbing the stage to appear with her husband Steve, Palin and her husband Todd:
“Governor Palin was underestimated, too. She took on the powerful career politicians. And no one thought she could win, but she did. And she pushed through real ethics reform that had the political elite screaming in their smoke-filled backroom. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do in this campaign.
“My opponent has virtually the entire political establishment working with him, for him, and attacking me. And they’re doing it because they’re terrified of change. They wanted to keep doing business with the state and having their secret deals and keeping the free trips and free meals. They are fighting with everything they’ve got to keep the status quo. Well, I’ve got some news. They’re going to lose.”
Now, just to keep in touch with reality – those attending the Buckhead event included Eric Tanenblatt, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s former chief of staff, and Fred Cooper, the longtime Republican leader and former party chairman. You will not find a pair of more influential members of the GOP in Georgia.
Palin also hewed to the anti-good-ol-boyism theme:
“Why do so many of us have an opinion on this race? Because it’s epic, it’s historic. The eyes of America are on you, Georgia, to see if you really do want that positive change – and to get rid of that good ol’ boy network that really gets in the way of doing the things that the people…expect from their government.
“When you take on the status quo, and career politicians – they have an entitlement mentality – they’re going to fight you, and they’re going to fight you really hard. And they’ll say some crazy things about you. And some of them, with buddies in the media, will hook up with them, and then – you never know – they may even make things up about you. They’ll make you sound so bad that even your own momma won’t want to vote for you.”
Palin also took a very specific shot at Georgia Right to Life. Handel was the only candidate in the GOP field for governor that the anti-abortion group refused to endorse – Handel favors the right to abortion in cases of rape and incest, and opposes restrictions that GRTL would place on invitro fertilization.
Georgia Right to Life actively campaigned against Handel in the primary. “[Palin] has a son with Down Syndrome (sic), and under Karen Handel’s laws, Handel would have felt like it was OK to go in and abort that child, ” the news website Politico quoted Melanie Crozier, the executive director of GRTL’s political action committee, as saying.
Crozier later said she regretted her remark.
Palin was not assuaged today — though she didn’t mention GRTL by name:
“I know that Karen Handel is pro-family. She’s pro-life. You’ve got really great pro-life organizations here in this state that make a positive difference…Unfortunately, a few – maybe one of these organizations, kind of crossed a line, using my baby Trig in a pretty disgusting, certainly unnecessary attack on your candidate.”
Palin said bringing her kid into the contest – specifically, she said it was a case of “drawing an innocent into a vicious smear” — was reason enough for her to make the cross-country trip to Georgia.
One last note: State Sen. John Douglas of Social Circle, who is in a runoff Tuesday with Tim Echols for a seat on the Public Service Commission, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Not bad face time on the day before a vote.