By Chris Cillizza
Friday, July 30, 2010; 8:28 AM
1. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed Wyoming State Auditor Rita Meyer's campaign for governor as the 2008 vice presidential nominee continues to back a stable of women running in contested statewide primary races.
"Voters know that Rita has a unique blend of steel magnolia and mama grizzly," Palin wrote on her Facebook page. "Her true grit has not escaped the eye of other Americans who know that at every level of political office we all benefit with commonsense constitutional conservatives in service."
Meyer is running in a crowded Aug. 17 Republican primary that includes state House Speaker Colin Simpson, the son of former Sen. Alan Simpson, former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead and state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Micheli.
The winner on the Republican side will be heavily favored in the fall as popular Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) is retiring after two terms in office and his party doesn't have an obvious replacement.
The Meyer endorsement follows a now-familiar blueprint for Palin: get behind a female candidate with a few weeks remaining in a crowded primary fight in hopes of using her conservative star power (and the media attention her endorsement creates) to catapult her chosen candidate to victory.
While it's hard to credit a single endorsement with delivering a race for a candidate, it is clear that Palin's support for former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina in the California Senate race, state Rep. Nikki Haley in the South Carolina governor's contest and former Secretary of State Karen Handel in the Georgia governor's race helped each of the women at the polls.
Should Handel, who faces an Aug. 10 runoff against former Rep. Nathan Deal, and Meyer win, Palin would, arguably, have had the most successful primary endorsement season of any potential 2012 candidate. (For a full list of Palin endorsements this year, make sure to check out the Post's terrific -- and new! -- chart.)
And, should Palin decide to run for president, which remains an absolute unknown at this point, she will have found -- whether intentionally or not -- a potential unifying theme for her national candidacy. It's not much of a stretch to imagine Palin casting herself as the ultimate mama grizzly -- running a campaign based on her experiences as a woman, mother and governor to put a different sort of politician in the White House.
2. Wealthy businessman Rick Snyder has surged to the top of a crowded field in the Aug. 3 Michigan Republican gubernatorial primary, according to a new independent poll.
The survey, which was conducted by EPIC/MRA showed Snyder at 26 percent while state Attorney General Mike Cox and Rep. Pete Hoekstra were close behind with 24 and 23 percent respectively. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard remained a distant fourth with 10 percent.
The poll confirms that the GOP field remains in flux with four days remaining until the Aug. 3 primary. A Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll released earlier this week showed Cox and Hoekstra tied for the top spot with 26 percent each, with Snyder taking 20 percent and Bouchard at 12 percent.
In each survey there was a significant chunk of undecided voters.
Snyder has spent $5.9 million of his own fortune on his bid and was the first candidate up on the air with a February TV ad touting himself as "one tough nerd." Meanwhile, Cox and Hoekstra have been hammering each other on the airwaves. In the week leading up to the primary, Cox also has had to contend with allegations that he received a lap dance from an exotic dancer at a 2002 party at the Detroit Mayor's mansion.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero takes 32 percent to state House Speaker Andy Dillon's 28 percent, a turnaround from previous polls showing Dillon ahead.
Whichever Democrat wins will be an underdog in the fall, with Republicans heavily favored to take back the governor's mansion in a state that's struggling with record unemployment and sick of term limited Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D).
3. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's (R) Freedom First PAC will endorse four candidates today, adding to the string of 2010 candidates Tpaw hopes will form the foundation of his 2012 run for president.
Pawlenty will endorse former Sen. Dan Coats in the open Indiana Senate race and businessman Ron Johnson, who is running against Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). Pawlenty will also announce support for businessman Jim Keet in the Arkansas governor's race and former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin in the Razorback State's open 2nd district House race.
Keet is the longshot in the bunch, with Gov. Mike Beebe (D) enjoying high popularity ratings. Coats faces Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), and Griffin faces state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D). Johnson just recently found his way on to the national radar, and Pawlenty hopes he can put Minnesota's neighbor to the east in the GOP column.
Speaking of neighboring states, Pawlenty will also be in Iowa -- we wonder why, not -- this weekend raising money for four state legislative candidates.
Pawlenty's PAC is also up with a new biographical video that uses his humble beginnings to paint him as a different sort of politician and, more importantly, a different kind of Republican.
4. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel is up with her first TV ad of her GOP primary runoff against former Rep. Nathan Deal a 30-second spot that, like her first TV ad, highlights her gender and accuses her opponent of ethical misdeeds.
"One carries a purse. The other carries baggage," says the narrator of the new spot. The ad goes on to tout Handel's endorsement by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R); "One whom Sarah Palin says cut government and is the true conservative, or the other, who added trillions to our national debt."
The new ad makes it clear that Handel, who surged to a 34-percent-to-23-percent edge over Deal in the July 20 primary, will continue to make gender a centerpiece of her media campaign ahead of the Aug. 10 runoff. That's in stark contrast to some other female gubernatotrial candidates this cycle - including Rep. Mary Fallin (R) and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) in California - who have avoided the gender issue entirely.
Deal responded to Handel's first ad by claiming that "real women" supported his campaign; Handel shot back by accusing Deal of sexism.