On the five-year anniversary of the women-powered Tea Party movement that rocked the political establishment and gave back Republicans control of the House in 2010, the RNC released a statement honoring women’s history month that showed how out of touch it still is with the GOP base.
The RNC failed to recognize former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was the party’s first female vice presidential nominee. What made the statement stranger, though, was it explicitly acknowledged two governors who would not be in their respective statehouses were it not for Palin.
“Republican women have a history of being trailblazers, breaking ground and glass ceilings — from Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to be elected to both the House and the Senate, to the nation’s first Latina governor, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and the country’s youngest sitting governor, Nikki Haley of South Carolina,” the statement from RNC Chair Reince Priebus and Sharon Day read while conspicuously omitting the “Mama Grizzly.”
But as RealClearPolitics reporter Scott Conroy has written, both women were elected in 2010 with the “single most powerful weapon upstart Republican candidates could hope for that year: the endorsement of Sarah Palin.” Even today, as former South Carolina Senator and current Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint has said, Palin’s influence is the most powerful in a GOP primary.
Martinez and Haley were both trailing their respective races before Palin, who galvanized what became the Tea Party movement when she was put on the presidential ticket in 2008, endorsed them in 2010, which ensured they would get their respective nominations.
As Conroy wrote, two days before Palin endorsed Martinez, “Palin had been in South Carolina to bestow her official blessing upon 38-year-old state Rep. Nikki Haley, turning that long-shot contender into an overnight frontrunner for the governorship that she would win in the fall.”
When Palin went to New Mexico, “almost 1,300 people crowded into a Marriott ballroom for an appearance that had been announced just a day earlier.” Martinez “appeared as if she could scarcely believe her good fortune, given the sudden arrival” of the fearless former Alaska governor with “a Midas touch in GOP primaries.”
Martinez trailed by one point before Palin endorsed her, and she went on to win her primary by 23 points. As Conroy wrote, “Martinez had no problems raising money or generating attention.”
Conroy obtained an email that Jay McCleskey, Martinez’s sherpa, wrote to the Palin’s camp.
“Thank you. You guys were the turning point,” McClesky wrote.
In South Carolina, a rival GOP political operative essentially said it was “game over” when Palin declared that it was “game on” for Haley.
“There was absolutely no way when that endorsement came down to break through the news cycle,” a South Carolina operative told CNN’s Peter Hamby. “It was an earned media blowtorch.”
Without Palin, there would not be Governors Haley and Martinez. And it goes without saying that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who was not on the ground endorsing Haley or Martinez or even expressing his support for those candidates before it became fashionable to do so well after they got elected, would not have been able to praise them in an RNC press release.
Palin’s omission is conspicuous – and bizarre – because it would be like Democrats omitting Geraldine Ferraro or Barack Obama when praising Democrats who were pioneers. But like the Washington establishment that immediately tried to dilute and marginalize the Tea Party movement that gave them back some power in 2010, the RNC does not want to be associated with the movement that propelled the party to its only win in the last four election cycles.
And Palin, who is seen as the North Star of that movement and can do more to impact elections with a 135-word Facebook statement or 140-character Tweet (see: Deb Fischer) than those in the permanent political class wielding fancy metrics can with millions of dollars, will be closing out this year’s CPAC. That spot is given to the person who is the biggest draw, and Palin has been slotted there two of the last three years. Last year, another anti-establishment figure, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who introduced Palin and said he would not be in the Senate were it not for Palin, had the closing spot.
The more things change, the more they stay the same for the RNC and the Tea Party.