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Sarah Palin's Future: Will 2010 Set the Stage for 2012?

4 years ago
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It may be 2010, but former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is running like it's 2012.

Palin's political action committee, Sarah PAC, has taken in almost $5 million. The 2008 vice presidential candidate used her PAC as well as Facebook, Twitter and her Organize4Palin Web site to give her stamp of approval to more than 100 conservative Republicans in federal and state races.

Her use of social media and her popularity with tea party devotees has shone a brighter light on Palin's activities in the midterms than those of her potential 2012 opponents. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour and others often gave more midterm money directly to candidates and, more importantly, hosted fundraisers on their behalf. But Palin's star power draws the focus away from other efforts.

The success of Palin's candidates -- especially those in close races -- on Tuesday will contribute to her cachet as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012. Certainly, many of those who received her endorsement -- and the occasional cash that went with it -- may be likely to return the favor two years down the road.

"In politics, part of being able to support other people of your party in your election endeavor is a way you build your network and you build power," says Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. "She's basically building a lot of clout within the party. She can raise money, she can turn out crowds. People read into her the ability to impact an election."

So 2010 is as much about raising Palin's visibility as it is about helping her fellow Mama and Papa Grizzlies. Sarah PAC gave a mere $320,000 to candidates between June 2009 and Oct. 13, only 6.4 percent of her total take through that time. Instead, Palin has spent the bulk of her cash on political consultants, fund-raising and traveling the country. The fund-raising efforts, continuous public speaking engagements and building a list of more than 5,000 presumably devoted donors could all be a boost to a 2012 candidacy.

A look at the recipients of Palin's PAC donations and endorsements clearly points to 2012, with candidates and parties from early primary states benefiting. Candidates in South Carolina have received $25,500 from Sarah PAC, while the Iowa Republican Party got $10,000, with another $12,500 going to candidates in that state. In New Hampshire, Palin's group dropped the maximum $10,000 into Kelly Ayotte's run for an empty U.S. Senate seat.

That isn't to say Palin is taking the easy road to 2012. She's made plenty of risky bets this year, especially during primary season, when she endorsed some 31 candidates in competitive governor's, U.S. House and Senate races. Her record? A winner, at 20-11. But those primary bets included losses in Washington state's Senate primary; House primaries in Arkansas, Mississippi, Idaho and Colorado; and governor's races in Georgia, Maryland and Wyoming.

Some of Palin's long-shot success will be tested Tuesday, particularly in her home state of Alaska. Sen. Lisa Murkowski became the first beneficiary of Sarah PAC with a $5,000 donation June 9, 2009. But the relationship between two erstwhile Mama Grizzlies has long since gone south, with Palin's endorsement of Joe Miller, the ultimate GOP primary winner who is now beset by scandal and a strong write-in effort from Murkowski.

Then there's Christine O'Donnell, the Delaware upstart now better know for her "I'm not a witch" ad than for her upset of establishment Republican Mike Castle in the primary, a win enabled by Palin and other tea party supporters. O'Donnell appears destined for defeat in a Senate seat the GOP had hoped to win.

Not all conservative candidates are part of the Palin cabal. She didn't endorse Washington GOP Senate candidate Dino Rossi after her chosen one lost to him in the primary. In Colorado, rumors swirled that Palin would endorse former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in the Senate primary, but she never did. And she's never formally come out for GOP candidate Ken Buck, who criticized Palin's appearance at a paid speech in Denver the evening of the Republican state assembly. She's also steered clear of Senate endorsements in Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.

And not all of Palin's candidates are Mama Grizzlies, the term she popularized in a May speech and subsequent YouTube video. Only 25 of the 90-plus general election candidates Palin has endorsed or donated to are women. Of the 31 candidates she's endorsed on Facebook in October, only four are women.

How will Palin's endorsement and fund-raising success be measured come Tuesday?

Health-care reform targets. Palin began her midterm quest in earnest when President Barack Obama's health-care bill passed Congress in March, placing a bullseye on 23 Democratic House members who voted for it. She's endorsed GOP candidates in 20 of those districts, many of which could swing Republican this midterm.

The close races. If Nikki Haley is elected governor of South Carolina, a good share of thanks has to go to Palin, who came out early for Haley and stood by her girl when accusations of adultery surfaced. Likewise, a Miller win in Alaska would be huge for both him and for Palin. She didn't endorse Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle in the primary, but she's been plenty supportive since, so count a win for Sharron as a win for Sarah. An O'Donnell upset in the general would be huge all the way around.

The payback. If Terry Branstad returns to the Iowa governor's mansion, will he still remember Palin's surprise endorsement next summer, when the 2012 presidential contest starts to take off? What about Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley? Or Haley in South Carolina and Ayotte in New Hampshire? For Palin, this election may be all about giving something to get something back.

"Nobody has a 100 percent win record," MacManus says. "But if you have a pretty good track record, that makes you a player in the next round of elections.

"We're going to wait and see what her success ratio is."

Video: You Said It
We asked voters across the country what they think about Sarah Palin's political influence.
Click the play button below to watch their responses:

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Sarah Palin is certainly increasing her knowledge of foreign affairs. She states that she can see Russia from Alaska and that we must "support our North Korean allies.". And now, with her trip to Haiti, she can also see the Dominican Republic.

December 13 2010 at 7:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hello, Elbert

Sarah Palin in the oval office? LOL, Wow, what would other countries think.

December 01 2010 at 10:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna Cuffs

Ms Palin, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE-take this time out to go back to school and educate yourself with how government works. Study law, US history, and the Constitution. Maybe brief through World politics and Foreign Governments-without such knowledge your ignorance will only embarrass our Political system. You have a gift of relating to many in our Country-you've made enough money to now extend your education; you have the time since you've quit the Governor's position-it's NEVER too late to learn...

November 08 2010 at 9:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a diehard teaparty conservative , but Sarah lost my vote when she quit on her Alaska governorship to get rich!! She has about as much expierence as Obama....she also made a statement in her reality show commercial that she liked being in the outdoors in Aalaca, than "stuck in some crappy political office". Okay Sarah, perhaps the teaparty will wake up and stop making you richer and richer and keep you up there.......Her voice just irritate me to no end!!

November 06 2010 at 6:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donald M

Sarah, I just believe U do not have what it takes 2 become the next president of the United States. U certainly don't have the experience or the no how 2 run this country and U can't just quit because U don't think that it's important near the end. U certainly need more experience. Just sit back and keep trying 2 gain knowledge 2 understand how to run this country and maybe in 50 years or so U might have what it takes, give it a rest.

November 04 2010 at 2:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Sarah Palin's record: Entered Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu 1982 Quit 1983 Entered Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene 1983 Quit 1984 Entered University of Idaho 1984 Quit 1985 Entered Matanaska-Sustina Community College in Palmer, Alaska 1985 Quit 1986 Entered University of Idaho(again) 1986 graduated 1987 Appointed Oil & Gas Conservation Commissioner 2003 Quit 2004 Won Governorship of Alaska 2006 Quit 2009 There has been only one person to quit the Presidency of the United States Richard Nixon These are just the facts. When the going gets tough... She quits Are these qualities of a good President and leader? Think people! It doesn't matter if you are left or right. Some people ought not be President. Oh yeah, she quit the PTA after two years.

November 01 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this strong American woman she is what we need much more of now! I hope these elcetions balnce out our house. Checks and balances do not work if...they are all one sided with an unamerican agenda behind them!

November 01 2010 at 11:27 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to anniesez455's comment

Please state whaat is the unamerican agenda? Please be specific.

November 04 2010 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am ALWAYS suspious of someones motives, when they SPEND MORE than they will possibly MAKE IN PAY for a job!

November 01 2010 at 11:06 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Sarah Palin did not quit her job. The Democrats kept filing frivolous lawsuits against her keeping her from doing her job as Governor. She put the state of Alaska first when she made her decision to leave the Governorship so the State could continue to function. I highly respect her decision. If the Democrats would have left her alone she would still be the Alaskan governor today. Thanks Dems for giving us a woman who stood up to the destructive work the Dems were doing in Alaska and turned a negative into a positive. Sarah Palin is a fighter who does not give up. She believes in America and wants the Constitution to be followed. She has the experience and the chutzpah to face the attacks being thrown at her from the far left progressives. She represents what most Americans want. She is a refreshing newcomer to the world of politics. She is not the old establishment she is the beginning of the new era of "We the People". Does she have the experience - yes she does. She knows what we want and she knows how to get it in place. Never under estimate the power of a woman, especially this woman. Sarah Palin has the values that have been sorely lacking in both parties for a very long time. She has my backing in everything she does. She is rocking and rolling the establishment and I'm loving every minute of it. For those of you who are trying to marginalize her – forget it. This woman has talent that I have not seen in politics. She has honesty and values, which are unheard of in politics. She is a force to be reckoned with and she is not going away. Continue whining, moaning, and groaning folks, Sarah Palin is here to stay.

November 01 2010 at 8:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to teaforme1234's comment

I hope you post this repeatedly, as it seems so many don't know the truth about her, and aren't exposed to actual facts. They sure show the void in their knowledge with their statements about her. She's a strong, bright woman, and they couldn't fill her shoes. Their grammar and spelling pretty well tell their story!

November 02 2010 at 8:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I still get a kick out of liberals knocking Sarah Palin. Knock her intelligence while she makes money and gets conservative candidates elected through her understanding of Americas core values. Liberals say she isn't qualified to be Prez, and look what they elected, LMAO. A prez whos experience ranks right up there with dogcatcher. NO repub could have won the last election, I'm glad Palin ran, she saw what it was all about, and has set out to change it, and hell hath no fury.

November 01 2010 at 7:39 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply


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