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Sarah Palin endorses Christine O'Donnell: Will it matter?

1. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's last-minute endorsement of Christine O'Donnell's Delaware Senate primary candidacy against establishment favorite and Rep. Mike Castle drew scads of press coverage Thursday.

But, will it matter in next Tuesday's primary?

Sources close to Palin offered few details about what her endorsement, which was offered by the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee during a conversation with conservative commentator Sean Hannity, would entail.

Palin has endorsed dozens of congressional candidates this cycle but what she has actually done for those endorsees has varied wildly.

Palin made a visit to South Carolina to endorse state Sen. Nikki Haley (R) in advance of the June 8 primary, a visit that even Palin's detractors credited with revving up Haley voters. (Haley won the GOP nomination in a June 22 runoff.)

But, there are also numerous examples -- Mississippi 1st district candidate Angela McGlowan being an obvious one -- where Palin has sent an endorsement via Twitter and Facebook and did little else to help. McGlowan finished third -- out of three -- in the June 1 primary.

One Delaware Republican not working for either Castle or O'Donnell said that the Palin endorsement could matter in the more conservative southern part of the state (Sussex County).

"It will energize the southern part of the state," predicted the source. "It will make it closer but southern Delaware is small. The key will be northern Delaware turnout."

Castle's campaign has to hope that the Palin endorsement -- and the press attention it will draw -- helps drive voters out in New Castle County (in the north) where the Republicans tend to be of a more moderate strain and almost certainly don't like the direction the former Alaska Governor is aiming to take the party.

(It's worth noting that after the Alaska upset by Joe Miller late last month, the Delaware Senate race has already drawn considerable national coverage so the Palin endorsement may not change the race as significantly in O'Donnell's favor as the instant analysis would suggest. Those with O'Donnell will be even more supportive of her now but will Palin's support sway undecideds?)

National Republicans, who clearly favor Castle, believe that he is in strong position to win the race but acknowledge that Miller's defeat of Sen. Lisa Murkowski has left them nervous about low turnout primaries in small-population states.

What is clear now is that if O'Donnell wins -- and that remains a long shot -- Palin will receive the lion's share of credit and grow even stronger among grassroots activists as 2012 gets ever closer.

2. President Barack Obama will be hitting the campaign trail in earnest over the next month, with planned visits in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada.

The first stop will be a Sept. 28 trip to Madison, Wisconsin, where Obama will headline a rally "focused on young people and the change that matters to them," according to the Democratic National Committee.

Then comes an Oct. 10 rally in Philadelphia, followed by a tele-town hall two days later. A visit to Ohio is next on Oct. 17, and the itinerary is rounded out by a rally in Las Vegas on Oct. 22.

A Democratic official noted that Obama will "have numerous other opportunities to talk to the American people about what's at stake in the elections and he will participate in fundraising and political events" beyond the events announced on Thursday.

Obama is already set to be in Connecticut for state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic Senate nominee, on Sept. 16 and four days later will travel to Pennsylvania in support of Rep. Joe Sestak's (D) Senate bid.

The announcement of additional campaign travel for Obama follows Obama's transfer of $4.5 million to Democratic campaign committees from the Obama for America account.

Watch to see which candidates are - and aren't - around when Obama comes visiting. Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wisc.) camp has already said that he'll be busy with votes in Washington when the president comes to town later this month.

3. A new independent poll shows former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) opening up a double-digit lead on Gov. Charlie Crist (I) in the Florida Senate race.

The Sunshine State News poll, conducted by Voter Survey Service, shows Rubio at 43 percent and Crist at 29 percent. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who won the Democratic primary last month, appears to be eating into Crist's support, and is at 23 percent. Among only Democrats, Meek has now taken a 45 percent-to-35 percent lead, according to the poll.

The poll looks like a bit of an outlier as most data has shown Rubio and Crist are neck-and-neck, with Meek way behind. A CNN/Time poll released earlier this week showed Rubio at Crist 36 percent to Crist's 34 percent. Meek received 24 percent.

Crist, despite being a Republican earlier this year, is unlikely to win many GOP votes, so he's going to need to keep Rubio from gaining independent voters, while also luring Democratic voters away from Meek.

4. Illinois Republican Rep. Mark Kirk is up with two new TV ads in his bid for President Obama's former Senate seat.

In the first commercial, Kirk, a five-term congressman, touts his independence. "In a country where too many just vote the party line, there are only a few thoughtful, independent leaders who do what's right for us -- like Mark Kirk," the narrator of the ad says. The spot highlights Kirk's support for stem cell research, education and "protecting Lake Michigan from BP's pollution."

The second new Kirk ad seeks to tie state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) to embattled Gov. Pat Quinn (D).

"Quinn and Giannoulias agree: your taxes should go up," the narrator of the spot says. The ad also hammers Giannoulias for not paying any income taxes last year.

Giannoulias, meanwhile, went up with his own new ad this week touting his endorsement by President Obama -- also something of a rarity in this year's Senate races.

Polling suggests the race is a pure toss up.

5. If it's Friday, it's time for the not one but two Fix chats.

At 10:30 a.m., join us for the live unveiling -- via video no less! -- of the winner of our "Worst Week in Washington" award.

Then, at 11, we will spend an hour taking on all comers in our weekly, hour-long "Live Fix" chat. (Remember we now chat three times a week; on Monday and Wednesday for 30 minutes -- starting at 11 a.m. -- and on Friday for the full hour.)

Come for the commentary, stay for the random pro wrestling references! See you there.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | September 10, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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