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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Palin Wades Into Republican Midterm Primaries (New York Times story includes Karen Handel)

From The New York Times:

The latest candidate to win the most coveted Republican prize of the election year stood on the steps of a gazebo [in Lawrencevill, Georgia] and reminded voters of a new reason to support her in the crowded race for Georgia governor.

“Sarah Palin has come on board,” the candidate, Karen Handel, told a group of supporters who gathered Friday on the grounds of the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse. As they broke into applause, she added: “It means one thing. We’re winning.”

Last week, Ms. Handel became at least the 50th candidate to win the Palin seal of approval. Through a breezy 194 words posted on Ms. Palin’s Facebook page — calling Ms. Handel a “pro-life, pro-Constitutionalist with a can-do attitude” — a four-way Republican primary came alive, the latest in a number of races across the country that have been influenced by Ms. Palin.

After parting ways with Senator John McCain following the 2008 presidential race, Ms. Palin did not receive the list of campaign donors she had helped build, so her aides have been creating her own roster, a critical ingredient to a future political bid.

She has extended many of her endorsements to women, whom she refers to as “Mama Grizzlies.” (One exception is Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose male opponent Ms. Palin endorsed.) But some of her decisions have been met with resistance from social conservatives who argue that her selections are guided by politics over principle.

In Iowa, conservative Christians criticized her for passing over their candidate in favor of a former governor, Terry Branstad.

And the biggest furor so far has erupted here, with a leader of an anti-abortion group, Georgia Right to Life, accusing Ms. Palin of “endorsing any female Republican candidate that she could find.” Rival candidates complained that Ms. Palin was backing the most liberal Republican in the race.

Ms. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, dismissed the matter as petty politics on Friday as her bus tour passed through Lawrenceville, about 30 miles east of Atlanta. She said her fellow Republicans “would be equally as thrilled to have Sarah Palin’s endorsement as I have been.”

But worried about the fallout in the days leading up to the primary on Tuesday, she turned to Ms. Palin for validation.

“The primary is really close, so Karen’s opponents are kind of saying those crazy things about her,” Ms. Palin said in a phone message to thousands of Georgia voters. “Please just get the truth for yourself.”

Ms. Palin has offered her long-distance support to Ms. Handel and other candidates, but her campaign appearances have been rare. She has delivered a few policy addresses in recent months and seemed to be moving beyond the family drama that often enveloped her.

Like other national political figures, Ms. Palin has been supporting candidates all year, a mix of Tea Party enthusiasts like Rand Paul of Kentucky and establishment Republicans. But her endorsements did not gain much notice until she weighed in on the South Carolina governor’s race, helping to vault Nikki Haley from the bottom rung of candidates to the winner of the Republican nomination last month.

In conversations with Republicans in recent months — including at a rally Ms. Palin held with Mr. McCain in Arizona, at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans and at campaign events here in Georgia — voters often give Ms. Palin high marks. But asked whether they believe she should run for president, few say yes.

Judy Pruitt, a 70-year-old retiree in Lawrenceville, said she came to see Ms. Handel partly because of the Palin endorsement. But she had a swift answer when asked if she would welcome a 2012 Palin campaign.

“I’m not sure she’s ready for the presidency,” she said. “I do like listening to her, and I respect her views on things. But I think she can have more of an impact if she’s not running. I really do.”

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