Big Government’s Mike Flynn provides a short summary of Governor Palin’s influence in last night’s stunning upset by Deb Fischer over the Establishment favorite, Tom Bruning:
Just two weeks ago, the battle for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska was between state Attorney General Jim Bruning and state Treasurer Don [Stenberg]. Neither inspired the growing base of conservative voters. They were, to be charitable, standard conservative-ish career politicians. Mama Grizzly Sarah Palin shook up the race with a late endorsement of state Senator Debby Fischer. It made all the difference.
I follow politics very closely, yet I hadn’t heard of the Fischer candidacy until Palin’s endorsement. National tea party groups like FreedomWorks had put all their resources behind Stenburg, with nary a thought about Fischer. A good reminder that these groups aren’t as plugged into the grassroots as they like to claim.
Deb Fischer’s victory is even more remarkable when you consider the enormous financial advantage Bruning enjoyed in the race.
The Republican primary had been widely considered Bruning’s to lose. The attorney general reported raising $3.5 million, while Fischer hauled in a little less than $400,000 and Stenberg $700,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
As it became clear these past few days that Governor Palin’s endorsement had succeeded in catapulting Fischer past Stenberg and into a position where she had a legitimate chance to defeat Bruning, panic set in among those wishful thinkers in the DC Establishment on both sides of the aisle who’ve been telling us that her time had passed, that she was irrelevant. But, alas, there can be no doubt today that Governor Palin’s endorsement is still the gold standard for grass roots conservatives, and it’s obvious to anyone paying attention these past couple weeks that any talk to the contrary is utter nonsense (sorry, Karl).
This prompted the mainstream media, predictably, to enter full anti-Palin spin mode. The best example is provided by left-wing loon Steve Kornacki of the liberal rag, Salon. In a piece yesterday reminiscent of the farcical attempt by the Establishment to "blame" Governor Palin for the failure of the GOP to win the Senate in the 2010 midterms (conclusively debunked here), Kornacki tries to make the case that the GOP has a "A brand-new Sarah Palin headache", and that her endorsement in Nebraska will make it easier for the Democrat Party to hold on to Nebraska’s Senate seat:
If Fischer does manage to win, Nebraska could actually emerge as a Senate battleground this fall. With Democrat Ben Nelson declining to seek reelection, the seat has long been assumed to be an automatic Republican pickup, even after Bob Kerrey, a one-time governor and senator, decided to return to the state and launch a comeback bid. Polls have shown Kerrey getting trounced by Bruning – and with Barack Obama on course to lose the state by at least 20 points, it’s not as if Kerrey is going to get any help from the top of the ticket.
Fischer, though, would be a wild card. She’s largely untested, and there’s a lot that isn’t known about her background and her skills as a candidate. If she wins the nomination, she might do fine in the general election, but there’s also the chance she’d prove to be another Sharron Angle. And, of course, it could be that she does turn out to be the next Angle, and that it still doesn’t matter, given Nebraska’s partisan bent. (It’s doubtful that a Stenberg win would do much to help Kerrey, since he’s a more established figure and has been able to win before.)
I’ll make three points regarding Kornacki’s "analysis" (I’m being charitable). Kornacki (and others) often bring up Sharron Angle as an example of Governor Palin’s "reckless" primary endorsements in order to discredit her. One small problem, though: Governor Palin did not endorse Sharron Angle in the Nevada Senate Primary. Second, Kornacki avers that Stenberg would be a more formidable general election candidate than Fischer because he "has been able to win before". Really? This is the 4th time Stenberg has run for the Senate. His record in the primaries: 1-3. In the year he did manage to win the nomination, he went on to lose in the general to Ben Nelson, he of "Cornhusker Kickback" fame. In short, Stenberg’s electoral record is anything but stellar. He’s been a perennial (and reliable) loser when he runs for the Senate.
Finally, Kornacki’s overall point that Fischer would be the weakest of the three GOP candidates is contradicted by The Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy. Indeed in a CBS interview last night Duffy argues that Fischer, with neither the ethical baggage of Bruning nor electoral baggage of Stenberg, may well be the stronger general election candidate against the Democrat, Bob Kerrey:
Duffy says Fischer could pose more of a threat than either of her challengers might have to Kerrey — a former Nebraska Senator and governor who serves as Democrats’ best hope of eking out a victory in the solid red state.
"Now they face a nominee who doesn’t have very obvious flaws," Duffy said. "Yes, she’s undefined and they will try to define her quickly, but Democrats, despite what they don’t say now, really, really wanted to run against Bruning. They just felt like there was such a case to be made."
"In a lot of ways, she is the tougher general election candidate," Duffy added.
Duffy, who covers these races for a living, was even more specific about Fischer’s prospects against Kerrey in an interview with Reuters:
Despite being a relative novice in the race, Fischer has been a state Senator since 2004 and could be a strong candidate in November, said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report in Washington.
"She’s got a good profile for the state. She does have some experience and I think that she gets some momentum out of the win," Duffy said, adding that Fischer is likely to beat Kerrey in November.
People like Kornacki really need to come up with some new material. They’re continued attempts to diminish Governor Palin are, at best, amateurish. Anyway, I’ll close by noting that even the Palin-Deranged Jennifer Rubin grudgingly admitted, albeit with characteristic snark (highest value is finding other candidates?), that Palin’s endorsement means far more than that of Establishment endorsements…or the money they bring in:
Sarah Palin still can pick ‘em. She was the only prominent pol to back Fischer. Palin’s highest value in the GOP may be in finding talented female candidates (e.g. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley).
Establishment endorsements remain of limited value. Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and DeMint endorsed losing candidates. These pols may want to think about endorsing less and thereby maintain the illusion they can influence races.
Money is overrated. Fischer was outspent $440,000 to Bruning’s $3.6 million.
Update: (h/t John_Frank) Via Tony Lee at Big Government:
The Republican establishment spent nearly $3 million to support state attorney general Jon Bruning. The Washington conservative establishment spent nearly $3 million to prop up their candidate, Don Stenberg, who never got traction despite all of his endorsements. But it took just 135 words from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to propel Fischer to the head of the pack and give her the momentum, buzz, and name identification to capitalize on some of the groundwork she had diligently laid.
Until Palin endorsed Fischer by writing her a note, nobody thought Fischer had a chance of entering the general election to become Nebraska’s next Senator.
“As recently as a week ago, Deb Fischer was dismissed by the establishment. Why? Because she is not part of the good old boys’ permanent political class,” Palin wrote in a Facebook note. “The message from the people of Nebraska is simple and powerful: America is looking for real change in Washington, and commonsense conservatives like Deb Fischer represent that change.
Her final surge began, though, when Palin single-handedly leveled the playing field with her endorsement and proved her endorsement effectively wipes out the financial advantages and the endorsements other candidates have.
To be fair, had Fischer lost, the mainstream media and political establishment would have spun it as a defeat for Palin. And this is why a Fischer victory should be noted as more proof that Palin — and the Tea Party — have not faded, and their influence is only growing.
Read Tony Lee’s entire piece here.