From ABC News’ Rick Klein, author of The Note: Sen. John Ensign, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has been among the most realistic assessors of the political landscape this year. He said in June that it would be a “terrific night” for the GOP if the party only loses three Senate seats this fall.
Well — that was before Sarah Palin. On ABC NewsNOW this evening, Ensign told Sam Donaldson and me that the committee’s fundraising pace doubled just in the week since Palin emerged on the public scene.
“Our fundraising is certainly picking up, we had a much better August than we had anticipated, we raised $2 million dollars more than we had budgeted for, and it really was over the last couple of weeks things really picked up,” said Ensign, R-Nev. “So I’m confident that things are picking up.”
He said internal polling shows races much tighter than they had been in three states Democrats have targeted GOP-held Senate seats, though he declined to name them.
Could this be the beginning of a Palin effect? Might Palin do for the Republican Party what Sen. Barack Obama has done for the Democrats — energize the party from the grassroots on up, and help in down-ballot races across the country?
“I certainly believe that she is going to attract a lot of people who want to volunteer, a lot of those small dollar donors, a lot of people who are really excited,” said Ensign.
“So I think that what Barack did for the Democrat Party, she is certainly doing for the Republican Party, and we’re gonna surprise a lot of people,” he added.
“What I think that Sarah Palin brings to us is — the Democrat base was real fired up, now the Republican base is fired up, and so for turnout, I think that’s gonna be a big equalizing factor in this campaign,” Ensign said.
None of this is likely to change national trend lines that are literally years in the making. But it’s another sign of how this previously unknown Alaska governor is remaking the political landscape.