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October 2, 2014

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Election 2008:

Ensign’s criticism of Obama expected, but Palin?

Political observers say many in the GOP have given up on ticket’s chances of winning

Sen. John Ensign

Sen. John Ensign

Nevada Sen. John Ensign has taken a slap at his party’s presidential ticket, saying Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin does not have enough experience to be president.

Ensign also said Palin’s counterpart, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, is “much more qualified” for the post. The comments appeared in an interview on NewsONE that aired late Thursday.

The Nevada Republican tempered his comments by saying Democratic nominee Barack Obama also is not experienced enough for the White House, but John McCain is. “I’d rather have the most qualified person at the top of the ticket, not No. 2,” he said.

But such comments are expected about candidates across the aisle.

The anti-Palin comments are unusual coming from someone heading up the Republican Party’s effort to win seats in the U.S. Senate. Palin and McCain are to be in Nevada on Monday, one day before the election, because the state remains a tossup.

But the remarks put him in line with other Republicans who, expecting defeat at the top of the ticket, have decided to cut their losses, said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report in Washington.

“He’s not really off message. He’s just off McCain’s message,” she said. “Let’s just say that (Republicans) have pretty much thrown McCain over the side.”

To point: Lawrence Eagleburger, a secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush who has endorsed McCain, was asked on National Public Radio this week whether Palin was prepared to be president.

“Of course not,” he said. He added: “Give her some time in the office and I think the answer would be, she will be adequate. I can’t say that she would be a genius in the job. But I think she would be enough to get us through a four-year — well, I hope not — get us through whatever period.”

Duffy noted that Ensign’s committee is airing ads in North Carolina, Oregon and other states with closely contested Senate races that essentially suggest that McCain will lose. Those ads argue that if Democrats win control of the Senate, “liberals get a blank check,” a reference to the party taking control of the House, Senate and White House. Duffy also noted that unlike Obama, McCain has not coordinated with his party’s Senate candidates.

Indeed, Ensign himself has been remarkably open about his difficult task in what he has described as a “fairly toxic atmosphere out there” for Republicans, due in no small part to the party’s presidential ticket.

His Palin comments track with public opinion. A New York Times/CBS News poll this week found that 59 percent of voters surveyed have concluded Palin is not prepared for the job. Nearly a third said the vice-presidential pick would be a major factor in their vote, with those voters broadly favoring Obama.

Despite failures in fundraising and recruitment, Ensign is favored to move up the ranks of party leadership after the election.

“The one thing you cannot accuse Ensign of is having unrealistic expectations,” Duffy said. “If his colleagues didn’t like it, they could have written a check.”

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