Former Alaska Governor, Former Vice Presidential Candidate and current conservative mega-star Sarah Palin has endorsed South Carolina State Representative Nikki Haley for Governor.
It was the third bit of good news for the Haley campaign this week, following the ReformSC committment to promote transparency legislation that has been her signature issue and the announcement that Former First Lady Jenny Sanford will stump with Haley in the Low Country.
Will these developments affect the race?
Remember when Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship*?
Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Generational reference, I guess…
Anyway, the Haley campaign has gone from air-breather to starship with Palin’s endorsement being the warp drive. It will now be a campaign with national attention, a Tea Party bellwether and a test of Palin’s star power. It will attract more of a spotlight (and money) to Haley and give her a taller podium from which to speak.
Someone whose opinion I treasure tells me South Carolinians don’t give a hoot-n-holler about “outsider” endorsements. He doesn’t think ANY endorsements really mean that much. I’m not so sure that can apply to today’s political environment and Sarah Palin.
Palin’s star power in the Palmetto State is solid. It’s a Fox News state and her aw shucks demeanor, plain talk, motherhood, gun-totin’ and general kick ass image fits right along with a lot of folks in South Carolina. That’s particularly true with women because she’s like so many of them!
I spoke with some folks when the endorsement made news and one of them said “who [in South Carolina] doesn’t love Sarah Palin?”
I gave him three names:
Gresham Barrett: Barrett is toast. His association with a Congress that allowed the economic mess to reach TARP proportions is the anti-Palin and that contrast will become more stark. His campaign is having a hard time getting past the booing last year at a Tea Party event and now the candidate who likes to tout his “conservative credentials” has been dissed by the Queen Bee of Conservatives.
Andre Bauer: The Lt. Governor’s base in not very well-defined, though some believe he has an “in” with seniors. Without a large core of voters, his campaign will lose traction and this endorsement could very well be the slick in the road that sends his candidacy over the edge.
Henry McMaster: Attorney General McMaster is staking his race on “leadership,” name recognition and associating himself with Ronald Reagan. The leadership portfolio is being undermined somewhat by the ReformSC ads that highlight Nikki Haley’s charge on transparency, so any edge McMaster may have on that topic might be diluted. Name recognition is now a moot point; I’ll bet more people in South Carolina know Palin’s name than McMaster’s. As for Ronald Reagan: as much as I love that man, he’s dead and Sarah Palin isn’t. Young conservative voters in particular will relate more with Palin than Reagan (which saddens me, but… there it is).
Palin is also a favorite of the religious right and, face it, it’s hard to be more religious right than South Carolina.
By no means do I believe the race is over or that Nikki Haley will win by such a margin in the primary that no run-off will be necessary. This one endorsement is not the smoking gun that does in the rest of the candidates. It does, however, pack a powerful wallop.
So, will the Palin endorsement be a game changer? Yeah. I think so.
In fact, I think it’s a whole ‘nother game.
*Trivia: Jefferson Starships first album was “Blows Against The Empire.” Kinda interesting given Haley’s campaign against the “empire” of a status quo legislature.