Bill Steigerwald

Are John McCain’s economic values and policies sound? Does he really believe in free markets and cutting taxes and regulations? Is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin a real government reformer? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, it’s Pat Toomey, the former congressman and fiscal watchdog from Eastern Pennsylvania who almost unseated Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary.

Toomey, 46, talked up as a possible Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate in 2010, is the president and CEO of The Club for Growth ( It's a national grass-roots network that advocates public policies that promote economic growth and prosperity and provides financial support to congressional candidates who passionately believe in limited government and economic freedom.

On Thursday, the day after Palin’s big speech at the Republican National Convention, I called Toomey at his office in Washington, D.C.:

Q: What is the club’s No. 1 goal today -- as it relates to the presidential campaign?

A: The policy goal that I think is most important is to find a way to extend the current tax rates. In other words, to make permanent or at least extend the tax cuts that were put into effect in 2003 and which are set to expire.

Q: What have you found out about Sarah Palin’s tax and economic policies in Alaska?

A: We are still poring through some of the details but, on balance, I think it’s pretty clear she is a committed reformer. She has been willing to take on the establishment within her own party, including the old-boy network of Alaska. She has cut spending. She has cut taxes. I think the evidence is that she believes in free markets and has been willing to stand up to some pretty powerful forces to advocate what she believes in. We’re very bullish on Sarah Palin.

Q: Is she better or just relatively better than her peers in other state capitals?

A: In terms of standing up to corruption and RINOs (Republicans in name only) in her own party, she’s much better than almost anyone else. The only other person who I’d say is on the same level as Sarah Palin is Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina. I say that because you know how rare it is for an elected official to challenge an incumbent within her own party. Sarah Palin did that against the sitting governor of Alaska and defeated him. Then, when Sean Parnell challenged Don Young, the 35-year incumbent Republican House member from Alaska, Sarah Palin -- as the sitting governor at the time -- endorsed the challenger, which is just unheard of and just tremendous evidence that she is committed to her principles and not to the political establishment.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..