Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin apologized yesterday for implying that some parts of the country are more American than others, even as similar comments by two Republican congressmen were causing a backlash that threatened their chances for reelection.
In an interview on CNN, Palin said comments she made last week in North Carolina praising small towns as "the real America" and the "pro-America areas of this great nation" were not intended to suggest that other parts of the country are less patriotic or less American.
"If that's the way it has come across, I apologize," she told CNN's Drew Griffin.
In Minnesota, little-known Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg announced yesterday that he has raised $1 million over the past four days for his House campaign, after Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann questioned Sen. Barack Obama's patriotism and recommended that the news media investigate whether other members of Congress are "pro-America" or "anti-America."
The money began flooding in from across the country after Bachmann made the comments in a seven-minute appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball" on Friday. "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?" she told host Chris Matthews.
The backlash from Bachmann's remarks gave Tinklenberg enough donations to quadruple his television advertising, prompted the nonpartisan Cook Political Report to flip its take on the race from "likely Republican" to "tossup" and inspired a Republican who lost to Bachmann in the party's primary to launch a write-in campaign.
Republican Rep. Robin Hayes, who is locked in a closely contested House race in North Carolina, has also been criticized after telling a crowd Saturday that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." Hayes initially denied making the remarks, but he was forced to acknowledge them after an audiotape of the speech surfaced.
"I genuinely did not recall making the statement and, after reading it, there is no doubt that it came out completely the wrong way," Hayes said in a statement released by his campaign. "I actually was trying to work to keep the crowd as respectful as possible, so this is definitely not what I intended."
Hayes had spoken at a campaign rally in Concord, N.C., where Sen. John McCain appeared. The 10-year congressman told the crowd he wanted to "make sure we don't say something stupid, make sure we don't say something we don't mean."
He then went on to praise Palin. "Folks, there's a great American," Hayes said. "Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God."
A spokesman for Hayes's challenger, Democrat Larry Kissell, said the Republican's remarks revealed how he truly feels. "Mr. Hayes often talks about being able to reach across the aisle and not be limited by party loyalty," said Thomas Thacker, Kissell's spokesman. "This indicates his hypocrisy knows no bounds."
Kissell is making his second run at Hayes after coming within 329 votes of unseating the veteran lawmaker in 2006. This time, Kissell is better funded, as the national Democratic Party is putting more than $1 million into his race.
The party is also spending heavily to help Tinklenberg unseat Bachmann, who was expected to cruise to victory before her comments.
"This is quite phenomenal," said John Wodele, a spokesman for Tinklenberg. "We were doing fine, we had a good campaign going. But this has got us in a position we never thought we'd be in."
More than 17,000 individual donors sent money to Tinklenberg in the days after Bachmann's television appearance.
"Almost instantly, the first contributions came in, before I could get on the phone and talk to the campaign manager and the candidate to think about what our reaction was going to be," Wodele said. "Then I just realized we didn't need to discuss it because it was going on its own. It was happening, and it was coming in from around the country."
Michelle Marston, Bachmann's spokeswoman, said the campaign has benefited from the controversy surrounding the congresswoman's "Hardball" appearance and it too has received additional contributions, though she would not say how much.
In fact, Mike Gula and Associates, a Capitol Hill fundraising and consulting firm, has sent an e-mail seeking donations to her campaign with the subject line "Bachmann HELP -- Under Fire."