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Sarah Palin's Endorsement: Curse or Blessing?

4 years ago
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Tuesday could be a big day in determining how far Sarah Palin's endorsement star power goes. Two of Palin's most high profile and perhaps most controversial "mama grizzlies" face Republican primaries June 8.

In South Carolina, beleaguered state Rep. Nikki Haley is considered the front-runner in a four-way primary for governor. In the two weeks before the election, however, two men have said they've had affairs with the state lawmaker. Haley has denied the accusations and Palin is sticking by her candidate.

In California, two recent polls show Carly Fiorina in the lead against two men in the primary to decide who will challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer. But Palin's endorsement of the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive engendered plenty of backlash from conservatives who disagreed with the nod.

And on Thursday, Palin offered her endorsement to former Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, who faces a three-way GOP primary Tuesday to face Democratic Gov. Chet Culver. Palin's support of Branstad came the same day that Focus on the Family founder James Dobson endorsed one of his opponents, Bob Vander Plaats. (Vander Plaats also has the backing of actor Chuck Norris.)

Using Facebook and her political action committee, SarahPAC, the former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor has been active as a kingmaker -- or would that be queenmaker? -- in the 2010 midterm elections.

But so far, her record is mixed. Palin is 3-3 in congressional endorsements and 2-0 in gubernatorial endorsements this year.

A review of Federal Election Commission records and Palin's Facebook notes reveals she's endorsed or donated to 13 U.S. Senate candidates, 11 U.S. House candidates, and now six gubernatorial candidates.

Palin's winners thus far:

Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul's GOP primary victory last month may be Palin's most influential win, though Paul's subsequent comments on civil rights and other issues drew plenty of criticism.

Rob Portman won the GOP Senate nomination in Ohio earlier this month, while Adam Kinzinger won his primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson in Illinois' 11th Congressional District.

This week, Susana Martinez won her gubernatorial primary in New Mexico and will face Lt. Gov. Diane Denish in November.

Palin also endorsed incumbent Gov. Rick Perry of Texas in his March GOP primary victory over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

Then there are the losers:

GOP "young gun" Vaughn Ward lost his May congressional primary in Idaho after controversy about his use of several lines from President Barack Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention address, among other things.

Former Fox News analyst Angela McGlowan lost her congressional primary Tuesday in Mississippi.

And last month, Pennsylvania GOP businessman Tim Burns lost to Democrat Mark Critz in a special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha.

Some of Palin's picks are safe for the primary season. Of her Senate candidates, five incumbents -- Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Charles Grassley of Iowa and John Thune of South Dakota -- face no primary opposition. Five of her House candidates -- incumbent Reps. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, Jeannette Schmidt of Ohio, Tom Rooney of Florida, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, along with Allen West in Florida's 22nd District -- don't face primaries. Thursday, Palin also endorsed House candidate Cecile Bledsoe of Arkansas.

In one Senate race, however, Palin has played both sides of the GOP aisle. This week, Palin gave her blessing to Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller over incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Ironically, just about a year ago, her PAC donated $5,000 to Murkowski's campaign. In a Facebook post endorsing Miller she explained her turnabout by saying that Murkowski opposes repealing health care reform, supports taxpayer funds for abortion and embryonic stem cell research, voted for granting "amnesty" to illegal immigrants, and believes "Al Gore's insistence that man-made global warming is fact."

In addition to Miller, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Washington state candidate Clint Didier, and Missouri candidate Roy Blunt all face primaries later this summer or fall. Sean Duffy is favored in a September primary in Wisconsin's 7th District.

Meanwhile, it appears Palin is already looking at least four years ahead, donating $1,000 to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Tuesday's contests in South Carolina and California could say a lot about the extent of Palin's influence.

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