Sarah Palin is hitting the campaign trail, going coast to coast to build support for her mama grizzlies and papa grizzlies. But there's one thing noticeably absent at her stump events -- the candidates themselves.
Palin made a three-day tour of California last week to rally Republicans, hopping from San Diego to Sacramento in a schedule packed with speeches and rallies. But neither Carly Fiorina, the GOP Senate candidate Palin endorsed, or gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman attended the events, citing scheduling conflicts.
Fiorina -- who credited Palin with giving her a much-needed boost in the primaries -- told "Fox News Sunday" that her campaign got word of Palin's trip "very late in the game" and "we had commitments to keep as well."
On Monday, Palin appeared in Nevada to kick off the Tea Party Express bus tour. The rally drew a sizeable crowd, but again, missing from the action was Sharron Angle, the GOP Senate candidate widely touted by Palin. The reason, Angle's campaign explained, is that the candidate cannot legally attend events by an organization running an independent expenditure in Nevada.
But that still doesn't mean Palin can't hold joint events with Angle.
Palin's "mama grizzlies" are not the only ones absent from her side. Even Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, whose primary victory was fuelled by Palin's endorsement and the Tea Party Express, hasn't campaigned once with Palin. And there was no sign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry when the former Alaska governor endorsed him in Houston earlier this month.
The last time Palin actually appeared alongside a candidate was Sept. 16, when she spoke at a fundraiser for Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul. Before that, she campaigned for Georgia gubernatorial hopeful Karen Handel, who ultimately lost in the primary.
The reason for the lack of enthusiasm, experts say, is that while Palin is helpful to rally the base, her support among independents remains weak. And independent voters will be crucial to candidates like Fiorina and Angle in the next two weeks.
"You find that she did a great job in energizing voters and supporting certain candidates in a primary setting, but when you get to a general election and you have to win independent voters as well," said Kristen Soltis, conservative pollster at The Winston Group.
Sarah Palin is "somewhat of a polarized brand among independents and so what may be an asset in the primary could turn into a liability in the general," Soltis added. "And I think you see some campaigns trying to weigh the pluses and the minuses of what works for them in their own political situation."
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today reflects that view. Sarah Palin's seen as more interested in political division than in cooperation by 56-34 percent, and the Tea Party political movement gets a very similar 56-31 percent.
Political analysts say Palin is still a powerful force when it comes to rallying the base, as she did in California, but her appeal with the population at large is more limited, leaving candidates to look for other Republican veterans like Sen. John McCain to fill that gap.