By “it” I mean the ability to help candidates win races through her endorsements, and by “you” I mean anyone who jumped off the Mama Grizzlies bandwagon after Karen Handel’s defeat in the GOP runoff here. From an Associated Press report from Palin’s home state of Alaska:
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski trailed her lesser-known conservative opponent Tuesday in a surprisingly tight race that was seen as a test of the political power of Sarah Palin and the tea party movement.
Joe Miller held a nearly 2,900-vote lead with two-thirds of precincts reporting as he looked to pull off one of the biggest political upsets of the year. Miller had 51.7 percent of the vote, compared with 48.2 percent for Murkowski. [From Kyle: Updated results show Miller with a lead of 1,960 votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting; it's now Miller 51.1, Murkowski 48.9.]
Miller is a decorated Gulf War veteran backed by Palin and the Tea Party Express who sought to cast Murkowski as being too liberal and part of the problem in an out-of-control Washington. It is a campaign strategy that has helped oust other incumbents this year.
Murkowski has proudly touted her seniority after eight years in office, and said her roles on the appropriations and energy committees put her in a strong position to ensure Alaskans’ voices are heard. She denounced Miller for making what she considered deceptive statements about her votes and statements. He stood behind everything he’d said.
I consider the Alaska race a much better sign of tea-party strength than the results in Arizona. There, John McCain easily won a primary against J.D. Hayworth, who was farther to the right than McCain but who had served six terms in the U.S. House and was hardly the kind of fresh voice that tea-party folks tend to favor.
It was also a good night for the tea party in, of all places, the Florida Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat. The lopsided victory for Kendrick Meek is seen as helpful for Republican nominee and conservative-movement darling Marco Rubio, because Meek will drain votes from GOP Gov.-turned-independent Charlie Crist, who runs closer to Rubio in opinion polls.
Of course, someone like Murkowski might attest to the unreliability of opinion polls this far ahead of the election. But it looks as if the tea party will have a pretty significant faction in the 112th Congress.