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Will Sarah Palin Endorse Jane Norton? Colorado GOP Holds Its Breath

4 years ago
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Saturday will be a busy one for Colorado Republicans: The state GOP holds its nominating assembly in the town of Loveland, and later that night, Sarah Palin brings her "Take Back America" road show to Denver.

The question on everyone's mind: Will Palin endorse GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton at her talk at the University of Denver on Saturday night?

There are hints she might.

Last week, Palin predicted a "stampede of pink elephants" or "mama grizzlies" in the 2010 elections while speaking at a fundraising event for the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee that supports female congressional candidates who oppose abortion. Norton was among the handful of women she called out as pink prospects.

Already, Palin has endorsed former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina in her June 8 Republican primary battle in California against two men, including Tea Party fave Chuck DeVore. That endorsement drew more than 2,600 comments on Palin's Facebook page -- not all of them favorable.

The Susan B. Anthony PAC has endorsed Norton. And since Palin spoke favorably of Norton, among others, at the PAC's breakfast, Norton's campaign is talking up the potential of the former Alaska governor's endorsement. On Wednesday, Palin's Saturday night warm-up act, conservative talker Hugh Hewitt, endorsed Norton.

But Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams questions whether Palin will use her paid performance Saturday night to support Norton.

"I see no indication that Palin's going to endorse anybody," he said.

That would be welcome news to Norton challenger Ken Buck, a district attorney favored by many "grassroots" conservatives in the state.

On Monday, Buck told a Steamboat Springs radio station he has no desire to be a pink elephant, but seemed to question the timing of Palin's visit, saying "it's rude" of her to steal the thunder of the Colorado GOP state assembly to be held earlier in the day by making a Senate endorsement that night.

Republicans will gather in Loveland at 8:30 a.m. Saturday to nominate candidates for statewide office, a process Buck is expected to win and Norton is skipping. She ended up narrowly losing to Buck in the state's March caucuses and decided to petition on to the ballot. A third candidate, former state Sen. Tom Wiens, is also petitioning on to the ballot for the Aug. 10 primary.

Norton won't be in Loveland on Saturday, her spokeswoman Cinamon Watson confirmed by e-mail, but Watson didn't say whether Norton will be at Palin's appearance Saturday night. (Tickets range from $37 to $85; it's $125 for a pre-event reception.)

Buck will attend Palin's talk Saturday night, his spokesman said. But Palin won't be at the GOP dance earlier in the day.

"A private firm is bringing her in to speak that night," Wadhams said. "She would be cannibalizing her own event if she were to speak at our assembly."

Buck is gaining on Norton among likely primary voters and he leads her among conservatives, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released this week.

Would a Palin endorsement make a difference? Based on the back-and-forth news releases and finger-pointing over Buck's radio remarks, it would. But Wadhams questions whether it will happen.

"I think that was a rumor that ran amok," he said.

Still, the level of argument (including Facebook and blog posts) indicates an endorsement from the 2008 vice presidential candidate is coveted.

"A Palin endorsement would be sought after by anybody, especially in a Republican nomination fight," Wadhams acknowledged.

And if the endorsement is delivered Saturday, it blunts Buck's big day, said Eric Sondermann, a nonpartisan political analyst.

"If indeed the state convention is going to be a good day for Buck, it somewhat mutes that story," Sondermann said.

Two gubernatorial candidates -- Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Nikki Haley in South Carolina are among Palin's other pink elephants/mama grizzlies endorsed thus far. And Palin also name-dropped former Nevada GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden, who faces a crowded June 8 primary to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

What any endorsed candidate likely shouldn't expect is a financial windfall from Palin, who donated only $9,500 to candidates out of more than $900,000 her PAC spent in the first quarter.

"I don't think the value of a Palin endorsement is fundraising," Sondermann said. "The value of an endorsement . . . is an appeal to the Republican base."

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