When Gov. Sarah Palin flew home to Alaska for the first time since being named the Republican vice presidential nominee, she brought along at least a half-dozen new advisers to conduct briefings, manage her first TV interview and help her prepare for a critical debate next month.
And virtually every member shared a common credential: years of service to President Bush. From Mark Wallace, a Bush appointee to the United Nations, to Tucker Eskew, who ran strategic communications for the Bush White House, to Greg Jenkins, who served as the deputy assistant to Bush in his first term and was executive director of the 2004 inauguration, Palin was surrounded by operatives rooted in the Bush administration.
The clutch of Bush veterans helping to coach Palin reflects a larger reality about Sen. John McCain's campaign: Far from being a group of outsiders to the GOP power structure, it is now run largely by skilled operatives who learned their crafts under Bush.
Republicans have been heartened by the effectiveness of the new McCain organization.
Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman, expressed pride about her former colleagues. "We had a great team -- they're the best in the business, and I'm sure the campaign feels fortunate to have them," Perino said.
Yet others, including some Republicans, are quietly questioning whether McCain and Palin are well served by strategists anchored in the Bush establishment when the candidates are presenting themselves as a "team of mavericks." Said one Republican loyalist: "If the McCain campaign is trying to prop up Palin as its change agent, and its inoculation against the 'third Bush term' rap, then why on Earth is she surrounded by a cast of Bush advisers?"
HACKING TIED TO LAWMAKER'S SON?
The FBI searched the Knoxville residence of the son of a Democratic state legislator in Tennessee over the weekend looking for evidence linking him to the hacking of Palin's personal e-mail account, two law-enforcement officials said Monday.
David Kernell, 20, an economics major at the University of Tennessee, has not returned requests for comments. His lawyer, Wade Davies, said "The Kernell family wants to do the right thing, and they want what is best for their son."
Kernell is the son of Rep. Mike Kernell, a Memphis Democrat and chairman of the House Government Operations Committee.
The apartment the FBI searched is in a complex about five blocks from the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville.
A hacker last week broke into one of the Yahoo e-mail accounts that Palin uses, revealing as evidence a few inconsequential personal messages she has received since John McCain selected her as his running mate.
The hacker used an Internet address that traced to David Kernell's apartment complex. Later, a person claiming responsibility published a chronology of the hacking on the same website. That person identified his e-mail address as one that has been linked publicly to David Kernell.
BILL CLINTON: I GET APPEAL OF PALIN
Bill Clinton said he understands why Sarah Palin is popular in the heartland: because people relate to her. "I come from Arkansas; I get why she's hot out there," he said.
"I get this," he said. "My view is ... why say, ever, anything bad about a person? Why don't we like them and celebrate them and be happy for her elevation to the ticket? And just say that she was a good choice for him and we disagree with them?"