On Wednesday, Sarah Palin crowned two new papa grizzlies, announcing on her Facebook page that she is endorsing two Republican congressional candidates in New York. Palin's backing of Republicans such as South Carolina's Nikki Haley have garnered attention as potential game changers, given Palin's enormous popularity among Republicans. Reports have even surfaced of candidates desperately campaigning for Palin's support.
But are endorsements from Palin necessarily a blessing for their recipients, or might they be a curse in disguise? As The Washington Post's Greg Sargent recently noted, "While her favorability ratings are significantly higher among Republicans than all the other 2012 GOP hopefuls, her negative ratings among Americans overall are also significantly higher than those of her GOP rivals." (Emphasis in original.)
So in a Republican primary, or an overwhelmingly Republican state, a Palin endorsement may help. But in the general election in a moderate state, the opposite could hold. Indeed, also via Sargent, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte saw her lead over Democrat Paul Hodes shrink after receiving a Palin endorsement, and a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that a majority of Americans would have reservations about a candidate endorsed by Palin.
One of the New York congressional candidates Palin endorsed, Michael Grimm, is vying for the GOP nomination in Staten Island, a reddish-purple enclave, so he may stand to benefit. But the other, John Gomez, is running against a Democratic incumbent, Steve Israel, on Long Island. Will Palin's endorsement hurt Gomez with swing voters this fall? The Israel campaign certainly hopes so. Politico's Maggie Haberman reports the following quote from Israel campaign manager Lindsay Hamilton, "Sarah Palin's endorsement proves that John Gomez's strategy is to seek right-wing support from outside of New York."
As speculation about Palin's possible presidential campaign intentions ramps up, the performance of her chosen candidates may give us some sense of her potential appeal as the Republican nominee in 2012.