There are, to me, some curiosities about the Sarah Palin endorsement of South Carolina State Representative Nikki Haley for governor.
It’s certainly a natural and understandable move – both are tough, very conservative women who have bucked their respective systems. So, philosophically, it makes perfect sense and I don’t think anyone was surprised that, of the four candidates, Palin selected Haley to endorse.
But the strategic reasoning and the mechanics of it are … interesting.
There is chatter that Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Henry McMaster sought Palin’s endorsement several months ago. It’s on the record that it was the one endorsement McMaster really wanted. (He got John McCain’s, but that may not have been much of a plus.) Apparently, Palin’s camp inquired about Haley, also several months ago, but Ms. Haley’s campaign heard nothing more about it until the night before the former Alaska governor came to Columbia last week.
So, what happened? If he did, in fact, seek Palin’s support, not only did McMaster miss out on what is likely the biggest endorsement possible in Republican politics today, but he actually got rejected. On the other side, from what I gather via several sources, Haley didn’t lobby for the endorsement. So, it’s not like there was an appeal from two sides from which Palin could choose. In fact, she didn’t have to choose anybody. Palin has been very selective – and frugal – with her candidate endorsements this year – and she can afford to be. And what of Bauer and Barrett? Were they contacted? Did they solicit?
There had been word that Palin wasn’t gonna endorse anyone for South Carolina governor until AFTER the Republican primary winner was decided. That makes sense and is plausible if she intends to run for president in 2012. She would want to align herself with the winner in order to get his/her endorsement for the South Carolina Republican primary that year. Given that political reality, one would expect her to bet on a sure thing.
Why, then, would Palin pick an underdog? Some have tried the argument that it was a “woman thing,” that Sarah Palin endorsed Nikki Haley because of her gender. But that doesn’t work for me. She’s endorsed Tom Emmer for Governor of Minnesota and Rand Paul for Senator in Kentucky, so, clearly, gender isn’t a litmus test for Palin’s endorsements. Besides, if this is to be taken as a purely political choice, winning trumps chromosomes.
What does Palin know? She and her advisers all smart people – they know how to read the tea leaves of a campaign. The professionals don’t get distracted by news articles or perceptions of debate performances (and they sure as Hell don’t pay attention to bloggers!). Is this a gamble by Palin, thinking her star power will propel Haley to a runoff and, ultimately, a win in November? That, too, is reasonable though politics is hardly prone to reason.
It does seem that Sarah Palin chose to endorse Nikki Haley on philosophical principles rather than political expediency. That’s admirable and certainly the kind of action we want in our politicians.
The primary is three weeks away. That’s a millenium in campaign time. We’ll find out then if Sarah Palin is a gambler or a prophet.