CNN: Palin's Influence Far from Diminishing

Sarah Palin's influence is hardly fading, according to a CNN report. "The Republican establishment can't stand her. The media mocks her," CNN's Peter Hamby writes. "But Sarah Palin isn't going anywhere. Far from it."

Sal Russo of the Tea Party Express, echoing the sentiments of former South Carolina Senator and Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, told CNN that Palin "is the most important endorsement in Republican politics today, by far."

"She can move the needle in a primary more than anyone else can," he said. 

Former Mississippi Governor and legendary GOP moneyman Haley Barbour told Hamby two years ago that Palin could raise enough money to burn a wet mule without the need for people like Barbour if she decided to run a national campaign. She can use new media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to circumvent the Republican consultant class and the mainstream media that mocked her when Palin pioneered using social media to get out political messages. 

Years after they mocked Palin for using Twitter and Facebook, the mainstream media, often without acknowledging the irony, now mocks her on those platforms as they use them for the same purposes they once ridiculed her for using.

Because of that star power, GOP consultants not known for their loyalty cannot stand her. Hamby, who traveled with Palin when she was the vice presidential nominee in 2008 and has been regarded as one of the few reporters in the mainstream press who has reported about Palin fairly, says Republican consultants "wish she would disappear into the frigid wilderness of the Last Frontier."

One such consultant seems to be South Carolina's Katon Dawson, who abandoned Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign in order to take a paycheck from Rick Perry's during the 2012 Republican presidential primary cycle; he now runs a Super PAC backing Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Dawson told Hamby that he does not think Palin "has the juice that she had four years ago" and said that her voice is not as "loud or as important as it used to be." 

Dawson saw how powerful Palin's influence was in South Carolina four years ago, when her endorsement of Nikki Haley propelled Haley to the Republican nomination for governor and ultimately to the statehouse. A Republican who worked for a rival campaign told Hamby that Palin's endorsement generated "over a million dollars" for the Haley campaign in positive coverage on television and radio.

"There was absolutely no way when that endorsement came down to break through the news cycle," the Republican told Hamby of Palin's 2010 endorsement of Haley. "It was an earned media blowtorch."

Though Dawson alleged Palin's influenced peaked in 2010, notwithstanding the influence Palin had in the 2012 election cycles in Iowa and South Carolina without even endorsing a candidate, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) would disagree. Both were elected in 2012 and may not be in the Senate if not for Palin. 

In Nebraska, as Hamby noted, "establishment figures had lined up behind attorney general Jon Bruning, while outside conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the Club For Growth backed state treasurer Don Stenberg, who also had the backing of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul." Stenberg was even supported by DeMint and the Senate Conservatives Fund. 

All Palin did was publish a 135-word Facebook post supporting Fischer, and the rest took care of itself. 

"Before she endorsed we were down four points, within the margin of error and coming up slightly, and then all of a sudden the narrative changed and we dominated the news cycle," Aaron Trost, who was Fischer's campaign manager, told Hamby. "People who underestimate the power of her endorsement are going to be really sorry. People that write her off don't understand Republican primaries."

He continued, "People forget about this sometimes, but because Sarah Palin has a child with Down syndrome, a lot of people in the pro-life community view her as not just talking the talk about pro-life but walking the walk. Social issues play a big factor in a low turnout Republican primary."

At CPAC in 2013, Cruz said, "I would not be in the U.S. Senate today if it were not for Governor Palin." Palin's endorsement of Cruz propelled Cruz into a runoff with Texas Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst, which Cruz won en route to the Senate seat. 

A Palin aide told Hamby that Palin has been impressed by Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) because they have not let Washington change them. That aide said Palin "steps up when she sees there is a need," and she "sees the fire that Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have started."

The fierce attacks on Cruz and Lee from the Republican establishment have reinvigorated Palin, perhaps because they have reminded Palin of the her experiences with the permanent political class in Alaska and Washington that spent more time trying to stab her in the back than fighting liberals. Palin penned numerous op-eds for Breitbart News during the battle to defund Obamacare. In one, Palin defended Cruz and said they could compare "shiv marks." In another, Palin eviscerated Washington, D.C.'s version of Alaska's "Corrupt Bastards Club" on steroids.

"GOP politicians claim they’re against Obamacare and promise to repeal it," she wrote. "But when it came time to stand up and use the Constitutional tools they have – the power of the purse strings – to finally halt the implementation, they balked, waved the white flag, and joined the lapdog media in trashing the good guys who fought for us."

She continued that the "conservative grassroots is rising up just like some did all those years ago at the GOP convention in Alaska."

"We’re rising up and calling on the rest of the Party to stand up with us against corruption and indifference – the twin causes of failure," Palin said. 

Palin then declared that conservatives were "going to shake things up in 2014" and implied she may support challengers to incumbent Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). 

"Rest well tonight, for soon we must focus on important House and Senate races," Palin wrote. "Let's start with Kentucky -- which happens to be awfully close to South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi -- from sea to shining sea we will not give up. We've only just begun to fight."

Palin, as CNN acknowledged, will impact the primary races in which she chooses to leverage her star power to play in the 2014 election cycle. But Palin's influence and impact, should she choose not to run for president herself in 2016, may be greatest in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, where there are multiple strong contenders on the establishment and conservative sides of the bracket that will make it difficult for one candidate to run away with the nomination alone. 


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