Palin Dumped as Star Speaker at GOP Dinner

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Ferdous Al-Faruque report:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has been dumped as the keynote speaker at an upcoming GOP fundraising dinner in Washington, DC, because she was not able to make a firm commitment to attend.

"After initially confirming her attendance, Governor Palin’s team informed the Committees that her gubernatorial responsibilities in Alaska prevented her from committing until the end of the legislative session," said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). "We completely understand and respect Governor Palin’s focus on her official state business; however, there is obviously an enormous amount of planning that goes into this annual event."

To great fanfare, the fundraising arms of House and Senate Republicans announced via press release on March 16 that John McCain's 2008 running mate would be the keynote speaker at a June 8 dinner.

After Palin's participation was widely reported by the national press, Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said Palin knew nothing of the event.

"I communicated with the governor directly and she did not know anything about it," McAllister told the Anchorage Daily News."I pointed out the (National Republican Senatorial Committee) press release and she was like, no," he said.

Organizers of the Republican fundraising dinner reacted to the Anchorage Daily News story by reconfirming to the media that Palin would be in attendance even though neither Palin nor her staff ever made such a commitment in public.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) told ABC News that it was continuing to count on Palin's participation because an unnamed political aide had reassured them that the Alaska governor would keynote the fundraising dinner despite McAllister's comments to the Anchorage Daily News.

As the dinner drew closer, the NRSC and NRCC grew antsy at the lack of a public commitment. The committees confirmed late Tuesday evening that they were scratching her from the agenda and replacing her with Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker who led Republicans in 1994 to their first House majority in 40 years.

"We decided to go in another direction," said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. "Speaker Gingrich is a leader and an influential voice within the Republican Party and we are thrilled to have him."

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