On Thursday, former Alaska governor and potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Doug Hoffman for New York’s 23rd congressional district. She pledged to have her “political action committee, SarahPAC, donate to his campaign the maximum contribution allowed by law” and encouraged her supporters to donate as well. By endorsing Hoffman, Palin is setting herself up as the rogue candidate in 2012 should she seek the Republican nomination, starkly contrasting herself with establishment parasite Newt Gingrich. She is also putting tremendous pressure on likely candidates Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Tim Pawlenty to take sides in a race that has pitted grassroots conservative activists against the Republican establishment.
For his part, Gov. Pawlenty has expressed doubts about GOP establishment candidate Dede Scozzafava and said on Friday that he will probably make an endorsement soon. Huckabee will be delivering a speech at a New York Conservative Party event on Wednesday and many are speculating that he will endorse Hoffman at that time. So far Romney has declined involvement in the race, but if four of his likely 2012 competitors make endorsements it’s difficult to see how he will continue to stay out of it.
Perhaps unwittingly, when Gingrich endorsed Scozzafava he created the potential for turning the Hoffman-Scozzafava death match into a 2012 issue. By countering Gingrich’s endorsement with her own endorsement of Doug Hoffman, Sarah Palin has turned that potential into reality. Gingrich has chosen the Republican establishment and Palin the conservative grassroots. Now it’s up to the other potential 2012 Republican candidates to decide where they’re going to stand, but it may well be that grassroots conservatives will remember who stood up first.
UPDATE: Wow, lots of stuff breaking on this today. RedState has an exclusive statement from Gov. Pawlenty endorsing Doug Hoffman, go check out what Pawlenty says and Erick Erickson’s analysis. Can anyone really doubt that Huckabee will endorse Hoffman on Wednesday? Mr. Romney, call your office.
Meanwhile, a new Club for Growth poll shows that Hoffman has taken the lead — polling 4 points ahead of Democrat Bill Owens and 11 points ahead of Scozzafava. Will the Republican establishment finally withdraw its support for Scozzafava and go with a winning candidate? Will Newt Gingrich admit that he was wrong when he said Hoffman couldn’t win?