Do You Really Want Sarah Palin Endorsing You?

We've seen recently that Sarah Palin has the power to sprinkle her magical moose dust on a Republican primary candidate and take that candidate from also-ran to front-runner with a single Facebook endorsement. Nikki Haley, the likely next governor of South Carolina, is the most prominent example, but Palin has endorsed lots of candidates in this election year. But there's a downside to this: the general election. Ben Smith points us to this interesting poll from New Hampshire, where Palin endorsed Kelly Ayotte, the former attorney general, who will probably be facing Congressman Paul Hodes in the fall in the state's Senate race. Turns out that in at least one poll, when Palin endorsed Ayotte, her standing among moderate voters took a plunge:

Most of the movement both in feelings about Ayotte and in the horse race has come with moderate voters. Moderates make up the largest bloc of the New Hampshire electorate at 47%, and [Democrat Paul] Hodes' lead with them has expanded from just 8 points at 47-39 in April to now 21 points at 51-30. Ayotte's favorability with them has gone from +5 at 32/27 to -19 at 27/46. The Palin endorsement may well be playing a role in this. 51% of voters in the state say they're less likely to back a Palin endorsed candidate to only 26% who say that support would make them more inclined to vote for someone. Among moderates that widens to 65% who say a Palin endorsement would turn them off to 14% who it would make more supportive.

Not that this should concern Palin all that much -- by endorsing Ayotte, she's earned a chit with someone who will either be a senator or still a very important figure in 2012. Either way, Palin gets what she wants. But the problem for candidates like Ayotte is that most Americans who are not Republicans don't think too highly of Sarah Palin. I think we're going to see this a lot in the fall: outside of heavily Republican areas (like South Carolina), Democratic candidates will be making an issue out of Palin endorsements, while the Republicans who benefited from those endorsements in their primaries suddenly start talking about how they barely know the former governor of Alaska.

-- Paul Waldman

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