The Corner

Palin’s Next Step

 

 Free poster of Palin distributed at CPAC (photo by Chris Moody, Yahoo News)

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Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin proved again today that she has the chops to thrill a conservative crowd like almost nobody else.

In her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Palin delivered a series of snappy one-liners and pointed jibes, aimed both at liberals and the GOP establishment, that earned her plenty of applause and cheers.

But the clearest sign of Palin’s real power was the man on stage before her: Texas GOP senator Ted Cruz. Cruz, who surprised the crowd by introducing Palin, noted how crucial her endorsement was in his Texas GOP primary race against lieutenant governor David Dewhurst. “I would not be in the U.S. Senate today if it were not for Governor Sarah Palin,” Cruz said.

Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based GOP strategist, agrees that Palin is a formidable player in political races. “Where she has greatest impact right now is in primaries, where she chooses candidates and campaigns for them and brings enormous earned media and fundraising and tea-party support,” he says.

But with no Senate races in 2013, except for a special election in Massachusetts, there will be little opportunity for Palin to make a splash with endorsements. Palin’s other big media foray, her Fox News contract, has also ended. “I don’t know whether you can remain politically relevant just by putting Facebook posts up,” Mackowiak mused. “So the next year is an interesting year for her.”

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 In her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Palin trilled off a series of snappy one-liners and pointed jibes, aimed both at liberals and the GOP establishment, that earned her plenty of applause and cheers.

 But the clearest sign of Palin’s real power was the man on stage before her: Texas GOP senator Ted Cruz.  Cruz, who surprised the crowd by introducing Palin, noted how crucial her endorsement was in his Texas GOP primary race against lieutenant governor David Dewhurst.  “I would not be in the U.S. senate today if it were not for Governor Sarah Palin,” Cruz said.

 Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based GOP strategist, agrees that Palin is a formidable player in political races. “Where she has greatest impact right now is in primaries, where she chooses candidates and campaigns for them and brings enormous earned media and fundraising and tea party support,” he says.

But with no senate races in 2013, there will be no opportunity for Palin to make a splash with endorsements.  Palin’s other big media foray, her Fox News contract, has also ended.  “I don’t know whether you can remain politically relevant just by putting Facebook posts up,” Mackowiak mused. “So the next year is an interesting year for her.”

There’s no doubt Palin can remain a popular (and well-paid) speaker on the conservative circuit. But if she wants to be something more – whether powerbroker or elected politician – she’ll have to win over more than the crowd at CPAC.

Katrina TrinkoKatrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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