Tuesday night, a little-known state lawmaker won the Nebraska Republican Senate primary, beating out two better-funded and better-known rivals.
A week earlier, Sen. Deb Fischer had gotten the endorsement of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Yet in the wake of Fischer’s victory, Palin’s involvement has gotten little attention.
“The timing of her endorsement was perfect,” said Fischer campaign manager Aaron Trost. Palin endorsed a week before the vote, giving Fischer an eleventh-inning boost of credibility. “It was when voters were paying attention.”
It was also her second winning pick of the cycle — she also backed Indiana Senate nominee Richard Mourdock, who unseated Sen. Dick Lugar (R) in a primary last week.
Former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, another candidate in a competitive Republican Senate primary, got Palin’s endorsement last week. His campaign manager reported a “flood” of new donations. “Phones are ringing, online contributions are pouring in, and supporters are more excited than ever on our social networks,” he told Yahoo News.
Palin may have lost credibility as a kingmaker after the last cycle. She endorsed scores of candidates, many of whom turned out to be high-profile flops — most notably Nevada’s Sharron Angle and Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell.
Candidates in bluer states are likely not aching for Palin’s endorsement, and her support likely counts far more in the primary than in the general. “The Palin endorsement is a positive and a negative. There's no question it’s a mixed bag,” said Nebraska GOP chairman David Kramer. “In Nebraska on the whole, I think it’s a positive.”
But in competitive primaries in conservative states, Palin is a still an asset — maybe an underappreciated one.