Image: John McCain, Lincoln Chafee
Stew Milne  /  AP
Sen. John McCain talks on his cell phone prior to a campaign appearance for Sen. Lincoln Chafee on Oct. 4, 2006.
updated 9/11/2008 2:45:24 PM ET 2008-09-11T18:45:24

Former Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee has called vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin a "cocky wacko" and said her selection as John McCain's running mate has energized supporters of Democrat Barack Obama.

Chafee left the Republican Party last year after losing his bid for re-election and now supports Obama. He told an audience Tuesday at the New America Foundation in Washington that the Alaska governor has revived a "lackluster McCain candidacy."

"They've just thrown this firestorm, this tornado, into the whole presidential election," Chafee said in response to an audience member's question about whether the Obama campaign should worry about Palin's presence in the race.

He said her speech at the Republican National Convention had the unintended effect of energizing Democrats and Obama supporters.

"People were coming into my office, phone calls were flooding in, e-mails were coming in, 'I just sent money to Obama, I couldn't sleep last night' — from the left. To see this cocky wacko up there," Chafee said to laughter.

Video: The politics of Palin Chafee said in an interview Thursday that he found much of Palin's convention speech objectionable, particularly her "mocking" assertion that Obama was overly concerned with al-Qaida terrorists getting read their rights.

That comment "got to the core of everything wrong with the last eight years," he said.

"I consider that wacky, and certainly her tone was very, very cocky," said Chafee, a visiting fellow at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. "So I thought they were appropriate words."

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