The Mysterious Power of Sarah Palin

The 2008 Republican VP nominee seems to have an uncanny ability to pick a winner.
When Sarah Palin speaks, Republican voters listen. (Sean Gardner/Reuters)
Aug 2, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

“Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin—though derided on the left and recently dismissed by former vice president Dick Cheney as a poor pick in 2008—is nevertheless proving her enduring power within the Republican Party in the most concrete of ways: She keeps picking winners,” reports The Washington Post.

“Each of five candidates she has endorsed this year who have faced primaries or other campaigns have won, including former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, who Tuesday beat the state’s well-connected lieutenant governor for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.”

Palin is now attempting to work her magic in Missouri, where she’ll campaign for former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, who hopes to win a close three-way race and take on Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in November. Republicans believe McCaskill is vulnerable and are hopeful her defeat could be part of their strategy to regain control of the Senate.

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I suppose we should have seen this coming. Palin retains a high profile as a Fox News contributor, and Politico reported in January that, “Endorsements from George W. Bush and Sarah Palin would have the biggest impact on Republican voters, trumping the support from other GOP figures such as John McCain.”

The study Politico referenced was conducted by Pew Research Center and said, “an endorsement from Bush was found to have the most positive impact on voters, with 28 percent saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who garnered the former president’s backing. He was followed by Palin, whose endorsement was shown as swaying 23 percent of GOP voters.”

ABC News seconded this notion in May, saying, “If you’re an upstart Republican running for your life in a primary in the middle of the country and hoping beyond hope to gain traction against the ‘establishment’ candidate, who you gonna call? Sarah Palin could be the answer. In 2010, Sarah Palin was the sought-after kingmaker for establishment and upstart candidates alike hoping to get her blessing to help them make it to Washington, D.C.”

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ABC quoted its political analyst Matthew Dowd, who described Palin as the ‘spark’ that can light the fire of certain campaigns. “Singularly, she doesn’t win these races . . . But if there is a forest with a bunch of kindling, she puts a match and a light on it. The forest wood had to be dry, but she’s a spark.’ ”

One hot grizzly mama, indeed.

And Palin doesn’t always just toe the Tea Party line. Another ABC News article noted, “Sarah Palin abandoned her tendency to go with the Tea Party choice, instead backing six-term incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch over State Sen. Dan Liljenquist in the Utah Senate GOP primary and calling him ‘Mr. Balanced Budget for Utah.’ ”

And guess what? Hatch is now on his way to seeking his seventh term.

The Washington Post article did observe that, “In 2010, general electorate voters rejected several of Palin’s picks, including Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.”

But the story also quotes Texas Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, saying he doesn’t believe 2012 will be a repeat of that experience. “I don’t think we have any of the problems we had in 2010 in terms of electability,” he said

If he’s right, someone may want to ask Palin if she has any swampland for sale in Florida.

Do you think Sarah Palin’s endorsements really count? Or does she just have the ability to spot a winner?

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |

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