Conservatives are playing identity politics -- and it's working

If candidates are stressing this as a selling point, it’s only because it works. In Georgia, at least one conservative opinion leader’s endorsement of Karen Handel for the Republican nomination for Senate referenced this calculus: “If I could will someone into the Senate, it’d be Congressman Paul Broun,” wrote prominent conservative blogger and commentator Erick Erickson. So why did he endorse Handel instead? “First, she neutralizes the War on Women argument” Erickson explained. “Second, she is palatable to the deep pockets that Broun is not palatable to.”

If the GOP establishment and the conservative grassroots have finally jumped on the “Mama Grizzly” bandwagon, they’re still a few years late to the game. Sarah Palin endorsed Handel (and even narrates one of her ads), as well as Iowa’s Joni Ernst (you know, the candidate who “grew up castrating hogs”).

Palin’s apparent preference for supporting female candidates — even occasionally over arguably more conservative men — isn’t new, nor has it escaped the attention of political observers.