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The Palin endorsement effect, calculated (and spun)

Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen looked at his numbers to suss out exactly how much credit Sarah Palin deserved for the victories of some of the candidates she endorsed in this week's primaries -- an issue I touched on, too. The short version -- only a plurality of Republicans in South Carolina back Palin for 2012, and a plurality in California back Newt Gingrich. I don't think that's a perfect way of looking at this, but Conservatives 4 Palin goes overboard a bit:

According to the pollster's own numbers, Nikki Haley's favorable rating among Republican primary voters in his final poll before the election was 58/23. Carly Fiorina's favorable rating among California Republican primary voters was 46/17. Governor Palin's favorable rating among Republicans nationwide is 66/19. Less than 51% of Republicans nationwide view Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee favorably... is it really reasonable to argue that an endorsement from someone who is more popular with Republicans than the endorsees didn't help the endorsees with...Republicans?

The issue isn't whether Palin helped the candidates. She did -- there are few Republicans who could have hurt candidates by endorsing in the primaries, as Republicans like their potential 2012 nominees. The issue that was obscured by the silly "Palin racks up wins" narrative is that Palin is so popular among Republicans that fans of two conservatives who lose, Bob Vander Plaats in Iowa and Chuck DeVore, believe that Palin could have made them contenders by giving them her endorsement. She didn't, choosing instead to endorse one candidate, Iowa's Terry Branstad, who had an overwhelming lead, and two candidates, South Carolina's Nikki Haley and California's Carly Fiorina, who were in the last stretches of their campaigns and going up on the air against opponents who were running out of money.

As I said when the bizarre, unsubstantiated Haley scandals broke, Palin's endorsement and support in that race was crucial -- they obscured the fact that Haley was a Mark Sanford protege, pointing reporters instead to the delicious story of a "mama grizzly" under attack by sexist GOP hacks. She's clearly fed the narrative that 2010 is "the year of the Republican woman," which is good for the GOP. But here's what she told Time magazine after the wins.

Oftentimes I'm looking at the candidate who shares the circumstances in which I've been: underfunded, up against the machine, no big endorsements, running a grassroots campaign with the help of volunteer friends and family. When I see that, and can feel the momentum they can create with their passion in spite of greater challenges than their more comfortable opponents have, then I empathize, I relate, and I want to help.

That's just not at all true in the cases of Branstad and Fiorina, and it's barely true in the case of Haley.

By David Weigel  |  June 11, 2010; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Sarah Palin  
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