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Palin makes her most surprising endorsement yet

By Aaron Blake

Sarah Palin made what is perhaps her most quixotic endorsement to date on Wednesday, backing businessman Brian Murphy over former Gov. Bob Ehrlich in the Maryland GOP primary for governor.

Murphy is a largely unheralded 33-year old insurgent candidate, in the same mold of other Palin endorsees like Washington Senate candidate Clint Didier. Like Didier, he has set himself up as a more fiscally responsible, tea party-esque alternative to both Ehrlich and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

He's a former commodities trader who took a severance package after the financial meltdown two years ago and went on to open a bakery on an island off the Eastern Shore of Maryland (Businessweek ran a brief profile of Murphy two months ago, and this newspaper profiled the bakery in November).

Thus far, Murphy has not even appeared in polls of the race, and he hasn't had to file a campaign finance report since entering the race in April. Indeed, his candidacy was largely a mystery outside of Maryland political circles until Wednesday.

And he doesn't appear to have much of a chance; Ehrlich's favorable rating among Republicans was measured last month at 68 percent, with just 7 percent unfavorable.

But the former Alaska governor said Murphy brings the right background.

"As a former energy industry executive and current small business owner, Brian has the private sector experience that is so lacking in government today," Palin wrote on her chosen forum for endorsements - her Facebook page. "He knows how to incentivize industry to get our economy moving again."

Murphy called the endorsement an "honor and a privilege."

"Gov. Palin has served her city, her state, her country and her party with distinction," he said. "Gov. Palin has always been led by principle, conviction and character."

The Murphy endorsement is particularly interesting because, given a similar situation in Iowa, Palin went the other way.

There, businessman Bob Vander Plaats was the more conservative outsider running against a former governor, Terry Branstad, in the GOP primary. Palin went with the establishment pick in Iowa, whereas in Maryland, she went with the outsider.

Of course, it's important to note that Maryland isn't nearly as important a primary state as Iowa is - a factor that could have a lot to do with the potential presidential candidate's pick.

Indeed, when it comes to key primary states, Palin has more often gone with a more established pick. She picked state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte in the New Hampshire Senate race and state Rep. Nikki Haley in the South Carolina governor's race (though Haley was something of an outsider when Palin endorsed her).

Palin has backed several other distinct long shots, including Didier, Mississippi House candidate Angela McGlowan, California House candidate Star Parker and New York House candidate John Gomez. For a full recap, make sure to visit our Palin endorsement tracker here.

As we continue to look for rhymes and reasons for Palin's endorsements, we keep coming up empty. It's pretty clear that she's willing to go out on a limb in certain areas, but where it counts, she has often made the right pick.

This pick is pretty clearly in the former category.

By Aaron Blake  |  August 4, 2010; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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