Editorial Note by Gregory Hilton: I seriously doubt former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) will be a presidential candidate in 2012. She resigned from office, has high negative ratings, and only 24% of Americans say they are comfortable with her. Nevertheless, she has proven to be a major if not decisive factor in several GOP primaries this year.
The article below is by one of my favorite political strategists, Stacy Arena, who was co-founder of the Facebook group “I Support Sarah Palin.” Stacy’s enthusiasm for Palin diminished this year. She resigned from the group and her new page is called “Sarah Palin Stay Out of State Races.”
Stacy says “Having once been a proponent, supporter and defender of Sarah Palin, starting this group is bittersweet for me. As much as I still believe in her message, I question her grasp of the power she holds in today’s political landscape.”
Stacy’s article focuses on South Carolina, but I am far more concerned about “The Palin Factor” resulting in the possible loss of four U.S. Senate seats.
Palin Has Had a Major Impact on the 2010 Campaign
Some of Palin’s endorsements, such as former Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA), have been wise. She angered evangelicals and even Branstad said he was surprised but pleased to receive her backing. The real reason was presidential politics.
The first in the nation presidential precinct caucuses are held in Iowa, and Branstad’s opponent was the 2008 chairman of the Huckabee campaign. Huckabee and Palin could be competing for the support of social conservatives two years from now. Palin joined Mitt Romney with similar endorsements in Iowa, South Carolina and Arizona, where she was willing to oppose factions in her conservative base by enthusiastically backing the re-election of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The campaigns of Senate candidates Rand Paul (R-KY) and Carly Fiorina (R-CA) both said Palin’s endorsement was a decisive factor. Julie Soderlund, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager told ABC News: “When we earned her endorsement, we saw support for Carly increase literally overnight.” Support for former Rep. Tom Campbell completely collapsed when Fiorina received Palin’s seal of approval.
Nikki Haley, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in South Carolina, also gives Palin tremendous credit, “Gov. Palin is great because she is a national figure that has gone out and taught people the power of their voice. What we saw while creeping up in the polls was that she absolutely gave us a boost when we needed it.”
Palin Has Been Controversial
The former Governor has made endorsements in primaries where every candidate was a right winger, but the “Constitutional conservatives” she backed are controversial and could be defeated in a general election. The GOP Senate candidates in this category are Rand Paul (KY), Joe Miller (AK) and Clint Didier (WA). Sharron Angle (R-NV) was endorsed by the Tea Party Express, and is often referred as “The Sarah Palin of Nevada.”
While she is ahead of the Senate Majority Leader, Angle is still running 15% behind the GOP gubernatorial candidate. Many of these candidates are isolationists and protectionists.
They want America to pull out of the United Nations, and they are enthusiastically backed by libertarians. In thanking Palin for her support, Nikki Haley said “The truth is we had a movement in South Carolina. The movement was not about being Republican. It is about being conservative.”
Haley’s three primary opponents were in strong disagreement. They all proclaimed themselves to be solid conservatives, and unlike Haley, they had track records going back decades to prove it.
We will not know until after the November election if Palin has had a positive or negative impact on the 2010 campaign. She has increased her stature with many tea party members and advocates of “Constitutional conservatism”, but at the same time she has angered many of her most stalwart supporters from the 2008 campaign.
The Backlash: Sarah Palin Angers Her Core Supporters by Stacy Slaybaugh Arena
I no longer support Sarah Palin. My new group is not an attempt to bash the former Governor. I hope it will lead to a serious discussion of “‘The Palin Factor” in state races, and how her endorsements are leading to a decline in GOP prospects this November.
Palin needs to understand that “With great power comes great responsibility.” She has been inserting herself into a wide variety of state races. Her core supporters do not understand her vetting process. They also do not understand why she has been endorsing and promoting candidates which are in clear opposition to the conservative cause.
Many conservatives see Palin’s actions as arrogant and disrespectful to voters of states she is visiting. She cannot know each states unique issues, and most importantly, she doesn’t have to live with the consequences of her actions.
From personal experience, I know Palin’s endorsement of Nikki Haley in the South Carolina gubernatorial primary trumped all discussion of the issues. Because of Palin, Haley received tremendous media attention. Journalists started to call it “The Palin Factor.”
Haley was not the most conservative candidate in the primary, but after the Palin factor, she was certainly portrayed in that manner. Haley won the primary in a landslide. South Carolina is a very red state and 2010 is an excellent Republican year.
The national media attention has moved on, but they could be back again in November if Haley loses. Haley was not the best Republican candidate for a general election, and now an upset is possible. Nikki Haley is an inexperienced moderate who claims to be a conservative.
The Democratic nominee is State Sen. Vincent Sheehan, a former prosecutor who has already been endorsed by the powerful Chamber of Commerce. They refused to back Haley in the primary, and many Republicans feel the same way. A “Republicans for Sheheen” organization has already been formed. The Palin Factor has torn the state GOP apart.
The former Governor has clearly demonstrated her power and appeal, but the result of the Palin factor is that many primary voters stopped doing their own vetting. South Carolina is just one of several states in which Palin’s endorsements are wreaking havoc. Right now Palin appears to be a king maker, but her political judgement may be reassessed after the November election.