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Can Sarah Palin claim credit for last night?

It's irresistible for many in the press to look for Sarah Palin angles on election night. Tuesday, I wrote about Palin's late-coming endorsement of Terry Branstad for the GOP's gubernatorial nomination in Iowa.

On June 1, a Public Policy Polling survey found the former governor, running for his old job, with a 15-point lead. Between June 1 and 3, the Des Moines Register conducted a poll that found Branstad leading by by 28 points. On June 3, Palin endorsed him, angering some of her supporters who backed activist Bob Vander Plaats.

I speculated that "this endorsement adds to Palin's win record, erasing some of the bad taste of her Vaughn Ward, Tim Burns, and Doug Hoffman endorsements." And last night Branstad won his nomination by 9 points, closer than any poll predicted. How did Politico cover this?

Some of Sarah Palin’s riskiest endorsements scored major victories Tuesday for the former Alaska governor, showing off her power in Republican primaries. Palin had four primary endorsements in play – Carly Fiorina, Nikki Haley, Terry Branstad and Cecile Bledsoe – and three won or moved on to a runoff.

Seriously, what's risky about endorsing a candidate with a double-digit lead a week before the primary?

There's an argument that Palin irritated her supporters by stiffing Vander Plaats and California U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore, but there's no argument that she made victory possible for her candidates in those states. By May 6, when Palin endorsed her, Carly Fiorina had benefited from endorsements from multiple pro-life groups, as well as most establishment Republicans, and her rival Tom Campbell was struggling to raise money after being battered on multiple sides for his economic record and stances on Israel and gay marriage.

The National Organization for Marriage even went in against Campbell. In the final month of campaigning Campbell pulled back TV buys, and Fiorina outspent him by a better than 4-1 margin.

There's a good argument to be made about Palin's influence in South Carolina. She campaigned for Haley -- the only one of these candidates for whom she did so. And when Haley was first hit with allegations of extramarital affairs, Palin swung in and defended her, helping make sure that the coverage was not "Mark Sanford protege dogged by scandal" but "female candidate attack by boys club." But that "Sanford protege" stuff matters. Sanford's PAC dumped $400,000 on Haley ads in the final month -- Phil Rucker has more reporting from the state about how Republicans point to many non-Palin factors in her victory over what seems now like a weak field.

The rush to find a Palin narrative in absolutely every election, when her actual involvement with candidates has been less than that of Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, is mystifying. It's also irritating to Republicans who, generally, like Palin but believe that the media uses her as a cudgel against their party.

By David Weigel  |  June 9, 2010; 9:43 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Sarah Palin  
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