One measure of those seeking national reach in politics is the kind of battles they choose to wage, and at what point they choose to get involved. Many pols choose not to get involved in the primary stage for races outside of their home state, preferring not to get stuck in the quagmire of intra-party politics and to focus on general elections and party-building. That makes Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer for the Republican nomination on the eve of state convention a surprise:
One day before Republican delegates meet to back a candidate for governor, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is backing Tom Emmer’s bid for governor.
Palin announced her support for Emmer on her Facebook page. She called Emmer a “hockey dad” and a patriotic commonsense conservative who wishes to serve for the right reasons.
She also wrote that Emmer is best able to “provide bold, principled leadership that will leave Minnesota fiscally stronger for the next generation.”
How significant will this be at the state convention, where balloting for the endorsement takes place this evening? Well, that depends on who one asks. Emmer believes that this will have a big impact:
“It’s a very significant endorsement,” Emmer said. “It’s not only significant for the endorsement process but I think it has a significant impact on the general election as well.”
His opponent, current House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, shrugs it off:
“I haven’t talked to one delegate today that frankly cares about it, Seifert said. “Nobody has told me they’re switching off my side because of it. Nice lady, but last I checked she doesn’t have credentials to vote at the convention.”
John LaPlante at True North, who backs Emmer for the nomination, isn’t convinced that this will help, noting that Emmer probably had all of the delegates Palin could hope to influence — and general-election voters, too:
[A] Republican candidate must appeal to more than Republican voters to win in the general election.
For a good chunk of independents and Democrats open to voting for a Republican candidate, an endorsement by Sarah Palin is the kiss of death. They’re the mirror image of Republicans who disdain a candidate who gets endorsed by the Star-Tribune.
Other Seifert delegates may have some resentment over this selection as well. There isn’t a lot of political space between Emmer and Seifert; the difference more relates to style than policy. Both men are seen as GOP and conservative loyalists, and followers of both candidates see themselves the same way. Palin risks alienating Seifert followers who may have otherwise backed her, with little to gain at this point in making this choice.
It demonstrates why national politicians usually avoid the risks of picking winners in primary races. There may be good times to do this, such as when two candidates show such significant differences that it becomes important to highlight the candidate willing to fight for conservative principles. That was true in Florida and Marco Rubio, for instance, but only because the NRSC made the mistake of getting involved in the first place and endorsing Charlie Crist without understanding the situation in the state.
It does show that Palin’s willing to take risks and get involved in the micro levels of politics. But not all risks pay off, either.
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