The Campaign Spot

In Some States, Palin Endorsing a Rival Is Just Fine

I don’t often agree with Thomas Schaller, but I think he’s onto something when he argues that Sarah Palin inadvertently helped former GOP governor and current gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich in Maryland when she endorsed his primary rival, Brian Murphy.

There’s not much polling in the Maryland GOP gubernatorial primary, but Ehrlich begins with enormous financial and name-recognition advantages over Murphy. If Palin were to stop in Maryland and hold a rally for Murphy, this might be a different story, but in the end, Ehrlich should win the Sept. 14 primary pretty handily.

Of course, in the general election, incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley is going to play the one card most Democrats have relied on for decades: “My opponent is an outside-the-mainstream right-wing extremist who will slash all of the programs you care about.” Ehrlich can, and probably will, scoff. He’s the kind of right-wing extremist who’s too moderate for Palin, apparently.

Much of Schaller’s column is “nyah, nyah,” pointing out where Palin-endorsed candidates have lost primaries. Clearly, she hasn’t played it safe; she’s endorsed in big races and small ones, in gubernatorial, senatorial, and House primaries. In some races, like Nikki Haley’s in South Carolina, the Palin impact is clear, but her rally for Vaughn Ward in Idaho clearly demonstrated that her endorsement can’t overcome a candidate’s missteps. The power of her endorsement is probably most proportional to how many Sarah Palin fans there are in a state or district, a figure that probably significantly overlaps with the number of self-identified conservatives in that jurisdiction. And even then, it comes down to the candidate; she’ll never get Brett Favre elected mayor of Green Bay.

Maryland was Barack Obama’s sixth-best state; the McCain-Palin ticket had about 65,000 fewer votes than Bush-Cheney had four years earlier. Palin’s endorsement was never going to be a game-changer in Maryland politics.

UPDATE: According to this blogger’s list, Palin has endorsed 36 candidates; those candidates have won 10 races and lost 6.

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