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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Palin Steamroller Hits Speed Bump in Idaho

Sarah Palin, political kingmaker (or queenmaker, as the case may be) has been on quite a roll lately. She was one of the very first national Republicans to endorse Rand Paul before he went on to trounce Trey Grayson and become the new face of the Tea Party Triumphant. And more recently, candidates for highly competitive June 8 primaries in CA (Carly Fiorina) and SC (Nikki Haley) have surged in the polls shortly after a Palin endorsement.
But Palin’s rep as someone with the political Midas Touch took a hit yesterday in, of all places, her native state of Idaho. In the Republican primary to face vulnerable Democratic congressman Walt Minnick, the candidate that Palin (like other national Republicans) endorsed and personally campaigned for, Vaughan Ward, lost yesterday to state rep. Raul Labrador.
Vaughan had a very large financial advantage in the race, but succumbed in no small part because of high-profile stumbles, including a speech in which he (or his speechwriter) lifted whole lines from Barack Obama’s famous 2004 convention keynote address (!), and a debate where he insisted that Puerto Rico is a foreign country (which didn’t get past Labrador, who was born there).
You can rightly say none of that was Palin’s fault, but she did do her personal appearance with Ward after, not before, his most famous gaffes. Labrador had some Tea Party backing (though Minnick, who has voted against most of the top Obama administration initiatives, has actually been endorsed by Tea Party Express, which apparently wanted to boost its nonpartisan bona fides), and was also supported by the local conservative hero, former congressman Bill Sali. In any event, St. Joan of the Tundra couldn’t pull her guy across the finish line.
In other news of Palin-backed candidates, the bizarre saga in SC involving allegations by a political blogger (and longtime conservative activist) that he had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Nikki Haley continues to hang fire. The site which originally published the allegations is now trickling out purported text message records involving conversations between the blogger and Haley’s campaign manager that indicate the two were collaborating very recently on efforts to supress rumors of an affair, but don’t really corroborate the affair itself. And the Palmetto State zeitgeist seems to be turning in Haley’s favor, in the absence, so far at least, of real evidence to back the allegations.

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