Kelly Ayotte is a conservative politician, but she is not exactly a Fox News red-meater. She supported the Sonia Sotomayor nomination, she supported the expansion of the expensive SCHIP program for children’s health, and sided with law enforcement against the NRA during a recent state legislative battle.
How then did Ayotte gain the Palin endorsement?
1) The “early states” theory. Palin wants to earn favors in early primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. In those states she is endorsing likely winners even when (as with Iowa’s Terry Brandstad) that likely winner tilts more to the middle than Palin’s current political identity.
2) The “go with the winner” theory. Palin is seeking to make herself look more powerful within the party by claiming credit for other people’s successes.
3) The “woo women” theory. Palin has endorsed women candidates against men she might have been expected to prefer: eg Carly Fiorina over Chuck DeVore in California. These endorsements enabled and justified Palin’s recent “Mama Grizzlies” ad. By positioning herself as a champion of women in politics, Palin distracts attention from one important weakness of any Palin candidacy: her unpopularity among women voters. It’s working too. Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO today quotes Kellyanne Conway:
Women make up a majority of the workforce and account for 83 percent of household purchases. Palin is encouraging them to become more active and demanding as political consumers. Some are enraged, others engaged, but most are coming to a ballot box near you. Palin is a good messenger for this mobilization because she is one of them. They may like her — or not — but they are like her: a working mom with no Ivy League degree who thinks Washington’s ‘new math’ does not add up.
Kellyanne is a good pollster, and so she inserts that “or not” caveat. But of course the caveat is the truth: Women don’t like her. Even Republican women don’t like her. The summer’s interesting question is: by elbowing her way to the front of the parade of Republican political candidates, does Palin help herself – or hurt them? This will be an especially interesting question in New Hampshire, an open primary state in what you would not think of as Palin country. Ayotte challenger Bill Binnie has pooh-poohed the Palin endorsement. He said today: “I have consistently stated that I will win my campaign in Tilton, New Hampshire, not Washington DC.” Now he has the further opportunity to make that endorsement an issue. Will he? The deep-pocketed Binnie has done well at fundraising, so he certainly has the resources to try.