BOISE, Idaho -- Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called Republican congressional hopeful Vaughn Ward one of the most promising new voices in the conservative movement, saying veterans like him bring a unique perspective to public office.
During her stop in Idaho on Friday to energize voters and raise money for Ward's campaign, Palin also lashed out at the media and critics that have tried to characterize Ward as an opportunist with little political experience.
Ward was born in Idaho and attended Boise State University, but he has been criticized by his opponent for being away from the state for 15 years and returning with ambitions to run for public office.
A Marine reservist who served in Iraq, Ward is a first-time candidate for office in Idaho. He and his wife have rented a home in Eagle since 2008, when he served as Nevada director for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign.
"He represents four generations of Idaho, so it's kind of cracked me up to see some of the criticism," Palin said. "You know those false charges of, 'Oh, you've got a carpetbagger here.' "
Palin, who was McCain's running mate in 2008, touted Ward's service in the military and told the crowd: "Vaughn will fight for you in Congress just as honorably as he fought for you in uniform."
Her visit drew about 1,500 to the 5,000-seat Qwest Arena and comes just five days before Tuesday's primary and Ward's showdown with rival state Rep. Raul Labrador for the GOP nomination for Idaho's 1st Congressional District.
Palin was not paid for her visit, which the campaign has been planning since her endorsement in March, said Ward spokesman Mike Tracy. Her appearance could have a big influence next week and beyond for Ward's cash-strapped campaign, which has been tripped up in the past month by a series of missteps reported in Idaho media.
The latest campaign flub for Ward emerged last week when it was reported that position statements on his website appeared to have been cut and pasted from other GOP candidate websites and writings. Before that, Ward suffered a rebuke from the Pentagon over an online campaign ad and mailer showing him decked out in camouflage and body armor.