Sarah Palin may stand to gain–or lose–more from endorsements she issues this November’s candidates.
By Micah Hanks
Politics is always a gamble, but for Sarah Palin, there may be far more at stake.
In recent weeks, the former Alaska governor has drawn a good bit of attention not so much for her own activities, but for her choices in endorsements given to candidates–many of them less-conventional–in primary races around the country. Like game pieces on a checkerboard, Palin and her staff have carefully plotted the who’s and where’s, placing strategic emphasis on Tea Party candidates who have received grassroots support, much like Palin has. Though it’s still unclear at present whether Palin will decide to make a bid for the Presidency in 2012, the candidates she backs prior to this November’s election will inevitably help shape her future political strategies; whatever they might entail. But arguably, how she backs those candidates will have almost as much influences as who she’s backing.
Rita Meyer, who is running for governor in California, was caught off guard when Palin’s staff contacted her within an hour of announcing the endorsement of her campaign. “My campaign staff was taken completely by surprise by Sarah Palin’s endorsement,” said Meyer, who says she has never met Palin, and that the endorsement came as a bit of a shock, though a welcome one.
Meyer is only one of several less conventional candidates Palin has chosen to back, including California House candidate Star Parker, New York House candidate John Gomez, Missouri House Candidate Angela McGlowan, and most recently Joe Miller, who is running against Senator Lisa Murkowski. Of the Miller endorsement, the Washington Times called it Palin’s “biggest gamble,” since Murkowski, a Republican, is far-better funded than Miller. Additionally, Palin hasn’t made public appearances in support of Miller, instead focusing on social networking sites and automated messages to urge voters to show support.
At least one of Palin’s recent endorsements, Senator John McCain of Arizona, comes as less of a surprise on account of her Vice Presidential bid alongside McCain during the 2008 presidential election. McCain is certainly the more mainstream candidate in the Arizona race, with Challenger J.D. Hayworth spending far less and managing to garner Tea Party support. It’s easy to speculate whether under different circumstances Palin might have supported Hayworth, also.
But what do Palin’s endorsements really entail? Are they strategic moves aimed at bolstering the conservative base this November, or are they carefully coordinated decisions that, with time, may serve as pillars to strengthen a future Presidential bid of her own? Writing for Politics Daily, Matt Lewis writes, “Interestingly, of late there has been a debate over whether Palin’s endorsements even matter. Reinforcing this notion, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), a Palin-endorsed candidate, lost his Senate primary bid on Tuesday, though it is likely Palin’s endorsement helped him gain some points. Still, it wasn’t enough to help him win.”
Lewis goes on to argue that endorsements may have the potential to backfire, too. “There’s also the danger that well-intentioned national figures don’t fully understand parochial nuances before they endorse. As such, their backing can have unintended consequences,” he writes, noting the same of both Palin and South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, whose endorsements he had similarly critiqued. Granting endorsements are no doubt a difficult strategy for anyone, since it’s almost impossible for a non-resident from elsewhere in the country to understand all the underlying factors in communities across the nation, and more importantly, how they will perceive a candidate running for state office–with or without a hefty endorsement.
In truth, the Tea Party has provided tremendous strength for the Republican party, but often this has occurred in races where other candidates (viewed by the Republican party at-large as being more electable) were ousted. Will the strength of the Tea Party, along with the endorsements “underdog” conservative candidates receive from politics superstars like Palin, ultimately lend to the greater strength of the Republican party, replacing the “party of no” with more principled conservatism? Or, will pushing less conventional contenders against mainstream Democratic opponents have a negative effect? It appears that much remains to be seen between now and November.
Image by Bruce Tuten via Flickr.