The 2010 Palin effect
As the races for November's midterm elections heat up, one Republican who is not on any ticket is stealing the national spotlight: Sarah Palin.I am skeptical of the survey question. A majority of voters in most polls favor more drilling for oil and oppose abortion so it is unlikely they would reject a Palin supported candidate because of those issues. It reminds me of some of the stories I have seen on the immigration issue where they suggest that the Arizona immigration law gives Republicans a problem when every poll out there shows the law is supported by a wide margin by voters.
Though she currently holds no political office, the former Alaska governor has emerged as a key player in some of the most contentious races. Her endorsements -- mostly done informally via Facebook and Twitter -- have sparked instant media attention and, in some cases, significantly boosted a candidate's popularity. Several of Palin's previously unknown picks have gained national attention.
Perhaps the candidate who benefited most from Palin 's nod in the primaries is California Senate nominee Carly Fiorina, whose campaign credits Palin with changing the game for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO.
"In the primary, one of the important winning factors was defining Carly as a common sense conservative who can beat Barbara Boxer," Julie A. Soderlund, Fiorina's deputy campaign manager for communications, told ABC News. "When we earned her endorsement, we saw support for Carly increase literally overnight."
South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley also heaped praise on Palin for giving her campaign the push it needed. Unlike Haley's other endorsers, which include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Palin emerged as a key defender of Haley when two other Republicans alleged she had extramarital affairs. Palin also starred in television ads for both Haley and Fiorina.
Palin currently doesn't hold any political office and mostly steers clear of national media, but in an election year where Republican women are dominating ballots across the country, the former Alaska governor has emerged as a key figure specifically supporting female GOP candidates or "mama grizzlies," as she refers to them.
"She still holds this very unique place in Republican politics because of her very quick elevation to this very high role in the Republican party and the level of energy she is able to command," said Kristen Soltis, conservative pollster at The Winston Group. "I do think that in smaller races in particular, by getting someone who has a very devoted core of followers in the conservative movement to come out and lend you support it really can infuse a quick bit of life into a campaign."
Not all of Palin's picks, however, have had the same kind of luck as Fiorina and Haley. Cecile Bledsoe lost the Republican primary for one of the House seats from Arkansas despite getting a shout-out from Palin as "another common sense conservative 'mama grizzly.'"
Some Democrats, including Sen. Boxer, D-California, are using Palin's endorsements of their opponents against them, seeing a chance to rile independents skeptical of her views on oil drilling and abortion.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released this week shows that only 25 percent of Americans are comfortable with Palin-endorsed candidates, while an overwhelming majority -- 52 percent -- said they had reservations.
It is also hard to argue with the success of the many of the Palin candidates in marquee races such as the ones in California and South Carolina. She has supported the winning candidate in Iowa and South Carolina, two key primary states, and California is a state with the most delegates and she also supports Rick Perry in Texas, the second largest state. I would say she has set herself up pretty well if she decides to make a 2012 run.
The NY Times reports that Palin is supporting Todd Tiahrt for Senate in Kansas. He is running to replace Sen. Brownback who is running for governor. She is on opposite sides of Sen. DeMint this time. He is supporting Jerry Moran as the GOP candidate. They have both picked several winners this year.