The 2014 midterm elections are right around the corner, and after endorsing 64 candidates in 2010, and contributing about $300,000 to candidates in 2012, Sarah Palin is once again trying to wield influence over another election cycle.
Just like in previous years, Palin’s picks get free publicity on her social media accounts, through appearances in their television ads and financial support from SarahPAC. Formed in 2009, SarahPAC is Palin’s political action committee, which is “dedicated to building America’s future by supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation.”
Here are 9 candidates Palin has chosen to endorse so far:
JONI ERNST: It’s no secret why Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst’s campaign video attracted attention. “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” Ernst says in the spot, adding: “Washington’s full of big spenders. Let’s make ‘em squeal.”
Ernst got an extra boost from Palin. On her Facebook page, Palin wrote: “If Nebraska’s Deb Fischer can see through the bull in Washington, then Iowa’s Joni Ernst can help her cut through the pork.” Ernst reacted to Palin’s support saying: “As our campaign builds energy toward a primary win in June, Sarah Palin’s roaring support will help me to victory, and as a result, make ‘em squeal in Washington.” Ernst is running in a crowded Republican primary field in the Hawkeye State.
KAREN HANDEL: There’s another crowded primary in Georgia where U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel is running against fellow Republicans Jack Kingston, Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, David Perdue and several others.
But Palin has picked Handel, and recently made an appearance in one of Handel’s TV ads describing the candidate as: “The conservative who has walked the walk, not just talked the talk [...]. Somebody actually gets in there and does what they tell the people who hire them that they’ll do.” Palin concludes: “We can count on Karen to take her real life skills to Washington to help balance our budget, fight for lower taxes, and do everything she can to keep the government out of our lives.” For her part, Handel said she is “thrilled” and “humbled” to have Palin’s endorsement.
JULIANNE ORTMAN: Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Julianne Ortman is running against several Republicans for the chance to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken. Palin wrote: “Their law practice specialized in fighting on behalf of small businesses; so, Julianne knows firsthand the burden our federal government places on hard-working Americans [...] Julianne is a fighter for life and for our Second Amendment rights.” Meanwhile, Ortman released a statement on Facebook saying that she is honored to have Palin “on our side as we fight to defeat Al Franken.”
BEN SASSE: Nebraska U.S. Senate candidate Ben Sasse, who is running against fellow Republicans Sid Dinsdale, Clifton Johnson, Bart McLeay and Shane Osborn, received a glowing Facebook endorsement from Palin: “Ben knows how dysfunctional D.C. is. He’s witnessed firsthand the corrosive effect bad government policies can have, and he knows that ObamaCare is as bad as it gets. Ben is a leader we need in D.C. now!”
T.W. SHANNON: Oklahoma U.S. Senate candidate T.W. Shannon who is running against Republicans Randy Brogdon, Andy Craig, Kevin Crow, James Lankford, Eric McCray and Jason Weger also received high praise from the former Alaska governor: “As the former Speaker he can stand proud on his record of fighting for conservative legislation that directly benefited the lives of Oklahomans by lowering taxes, cutting government waste, and breaking the cycle of poverty by encouraging entrepreneurial self-reliance as the proven path to prosperity,” to which Shannon responded: “I am humbled beyond words that she is supporting me. What a blessing!”
CHRIS MCDANIEL: In a statement, Palin wrote that Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel “has a proven record of fighting for conservative principles in the Mississippi State Senate. He has been a champion of limited government, free enterprise, civic participation, reduced tax rates, a strong national defense, and a return to the original checks and balances of the Constitution.” In return, McDaniel called Palin “a true champion of conservative self-reliance that so many Americans and Mississippians identify with and admire.”
TIM SCOTT: South Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Tim Scott was the first candidate to be endorsed by Palin in 2014. The incumbent is facing a primary challenge from several fellow Republicans. Palin released a statement on Facebook saying: “We need more strong leaders who, like Tim, are conservative because they’ve learned from life experiences, not poll driven messaging, what works for our great country.”
GREG ABBOTT: Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is running against Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat. Davis tried to block an anti-abortion bill last summer with an 11-hour filibuster. Abbott promotes the Second Amendment as strongly as Palin and is also backed by controversial rocker Ted Nugent. As Palin wrote on Facebook: “If he is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!”
LIZBETH BENACQUISTO: Florida congressional candidate Lizbeth Benacquisto “is running against a wealthy self-funded candidate with lots of splashy campaign ads claiming to be a conservative,” according to Palin. That was the way the former Alaska governor described Benacquisto’s opponent, Curt Clawson. “Look at a candidate’s record, not just their rhetoric. Lizbeth is a genuine conservative with a track record to prove it”, she wrote on her Facebook page. Benacquisto said she was “honored by the support of fellow conservative and patriot Governor Sarah Palin.”
How effective is Palin’s endorsement?
During the last midterm election cycle in 2010, Palin endorsed 64 candidates. Just over half – 33 – of them won their races.
As veteran GOP strategist Ron Bonjean recently told the Washington Post, “Palin’s endorsement adds a boost of nitroglycerin with most Republican primary candidates that are looking for help with tea party grassroots support and contributions, especially in places where Obama is extremely unpopular,” he said. “Her backing isn’t as impactful to candidates in the Northeast, where candidates looking to win will have to be prepared to court independents and conservative Democrats in the general.”
Already this year one of Palin’s picks – Texas congressional candidate Katrina Pierson, a Tea Party challenger to incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions – lost her race.
Palin’s platforms — SarahPAC, her extensive social media presence with over four million Facebook fans and one million Twitter followers, a new reality TV show called “Amazing America” and her forthcoming digital video channel, “Rogue TV” – have allowed Palin to pop up in the news more than ever.
She was even recently asked by Fox News host Greta Van Susteren whether it is “still within a possibility” that she might make a presidential run in 2016.
“It depends on what it is that Americans really, really want in a candidate,” she said. “If they want a fighter, if they want someone who can so respect our exceptionalism, everything that makes America great, the promise of America. And if we don’t find that, then I would run.”