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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Palin Strikes Again

Sarah Palin’s selective intervention in Republican primaries this year reached a new level today, as she endorsed another female “conservative reformer” in Georgia’s highly competitive Republican gubernatorial contest.
Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who recently surged into second place in one recent poll of Georgia Republicans, was the beneficiary of Palin’s gesture.
It was fairly predictable, given Palin’s clear-cut desire to be closely associated with the election of conservative women around the country. Indeed, Handel’s overall profile and message–the brave conservative reformer taking on the corrupt good ol’ boys–has been remarkably similar to that of SC’s Nikki Haley before the SC contest was taken over by hamhanded attacks on Haley’s morals and background.
There is one, difference, however, that made the Handel endorsement a bit less of a slam dunk for Palin: she’s not necessarily the favorite candidate of social conservatives, Palin’s most reliable base. Handel’s been at odds with Georgia’s premier anti-abortion group over her refusal to back a ban on IV fertility treatments, and has also been attacked for a friendly attitude towards the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group.
The campaign of former Congressman Nathan Deal, whose struggle to edge Handel for a runoff spot has been significantly endangered by Palin’s embrace of Handel, pushed back hard, in a statement reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Jim Galloway today:

It’s disappointing that Sarah Palin has chosen to back the most liberal Republican in this race.
In past races, Karen Handel endorsed taxpayer-funded domestic partner benefits and gay adoption — and she’s been caught lying about it. Just last night, Handel finally admitted she’d written a check to a gay rights group — when previously she said the check was a forgery and she never lived at that address.
As Fulton Commission chair, Handel voted to give taxpayer dollars to “Youth Pride” which did outreach to gay and “questioning” kids as young as 13 and funded seminars such as “Unsung Heroes of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community” – this was during a budget crisis.
We do hope that the former governor will look at the record and reconsider, or explain to conservative Georgia Republican primary voters why she’s endorsing Handel in light of these well-documented facts and Handel’s clumsy effort to cover them up.

Georgia Right-to-Life officials are said to be “shocked” by Palin’s endorsement, and like Deal, can be expected to try to discourage her from personally campaigning for Handel.
It will be interesting to see what happens during the last week of this primary. Palin got a lot of credit–probably too much credit–for Haley’s ascent to the top of the primary pile, and then her landslide runoff victory. The long-time front-runner in the Georgia race, insurance commissioner John Oxendine, has long been considered vulnerable to a late surge from one of the other candidates. Handel, whose big handicap has been a lack of funds to run ads, will get a lot of free media, and maybe some last-minute cash, from the bear hug by the mother of the Mama Grizzlies.

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