We have a game-changer in the Republican contest for governor.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin today endorsed former secretary of state Karen Handel and her “underdog” bid for the GOP nomination.
The Handel endorsement appeared on Palin’s Facebook page – the same manner in which she endorsed GOP candidate for governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma last month.
Palin’s endorsement of Nikki Haley in the Republican race for governor of South Carolina was deemed crucial to Haley’s surge last month.
While Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Thurbert Baker in the Democratic race for governor today was a sure thing — the attorney general had stuck with Hillary Clinton in the ‘08 presidential campaign — the Palin endorsement has been touch-and-go.
The popular former Alaskan governor was in town two weeks ago at a charity event. Handel’s rivals – former congressman Nathan Deal, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and former state senator Eric Johnson of Savannah – all are presumed to have made entreaties to forestall or intercept an endorsement of Handel.
Palin specifically cited Handel’s focus on ethics and her persona as a “reformer” – both topics of her first TV ad last week, slamming all three major rivals.
You know that the GOP establishment has been lined up against Oxendine – seen as a more vulnerable candidate in a race against Democrat Roy Barnes. The Ox himself has talked about it.
If it’s seen as a Republican signal to consolidate their anti-Ox efforts, Palin’s endorsement could change the rhythm of the GOP race for governor. A reaction posted on the Facebook page of one Oxendine staffer:
To paraphrase Herman Cain, “They think we are stupid.” That is why women from outside of Georgia are coming in trying to tell us who to vote for. Surprise, they are all telling us to vote for the woman!
Certainly it will make last-minute fund-raising for Handel easier. According to finance disclosures released last week, as of June 30 she had only $667,840 on hand for media buys – one, perhaps two rounds of TV ads.
The Facebook endorsement directs supporters nationwide to the contribution page on Handel’s web site.
But the key will be whether Palin will make the trip to Georgia for a side-by-side appearance with Handel within the next seven days. Certainly, that’s what Handel will be shooting for. Think about the impact of a joint appearance by both Palin and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who endorsed Handel earlier this month.
Following is the full endorsement posted by Palin:
I’m proud to lend my support to a great commonsense conservative woman running for Governor this year in the Peach State. My recent visit back to this beautiful area allowed me to meet more of the patriotic Americans who call Georgia home and who are ready for a reformer to help strengthen their families, businesses, state and, ultimately, our United States.
“Karen Handel is that reformer. Throughout her career in public office – from serving as Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners to Georgia’s Secretary of State – Karen has brought the common sense fiscal discipline and positive change in government that is needed now more than ever.
“Though considered an underdog candidate (more power to her!), this pro-life, pro-Constitutionalist with a can-do attitude and a record of fighting for ethics in government is ready to serve in the Governor’s Office. She’ll balance budgets and help spur Georgia’s economy. Her plan will contribute to America’s roadmap which can benefit all of us.”