Page last updated at 01:23 GMT, Saturday, 11 October 2008 02:23 UK

Economy could deflect probe sting

By Richard Lister
BBC News, Washington

At first glance the publication of the ethics report into Sarah Palin might seem highly damaging to the McCain-Palin campaign, given that both candidates have pledged themselves to weed out abuse of power in government.

But as soon as she became the Republican vice-presidential nominee, John McCain's team worked intensively to discredit the investigation into Governor Palin.

Sarah Palin
Palin's supporters say she is the victim of a hatchet job

In briefings, stump speeches and a detailed website, the campaign accused supporters of their Democratic opponent Barack Obama of turning what was originally a non-political enquiry into a partisan circus designed to smear Governor Palin and alter the course of the election.

These accusations stemmed from comments by an Alaskan state Senator and Obama supporter, Hollis French who ran the investigation.

While it was still under way he said it could produce criminal charges and "an October surprise" for the McCain-Palin ticket.

The Alaska Supreme Court though said the probe should continue, rejecting an attempt by the state's Republicans to have it stopped.

This presidential race has now become so polarised it seems likely that both Republicans and Democrats will see the report's findings as vindication for their own trenchant views about Governor Palin - that she is alternatively the victim of a Democratic party hatchet job, or a hypocrite.

The report does complicate Republican effort to focus the Presidential campaign on questions of character.

But it seems that voters - for now at least - are far more concerned about who will extract them from the current economic crisis, than any questions about political infighting in far-off Alaska.

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