The Washington Times - August 20, 2012, 03:33PM

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed several successful dark-horse Republicans in this year’s election cycle, and on Monday she threw her support behind her biggest underdog yet — Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino.

Mr. Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, is running what most analysts consider to be a long-shot campaign against incumbent Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin.

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In a statement released by the Bongino campaign, Mrs. Palin touted Mr. Bongino’s credentials as a political outsider who is willing to stand up for tea party principles in a “deep-blue state.”

“I don’t believe in ignoring good candidates simply because they’re fighting uphill battles against the odds,” she said. “In fact, I find such candidates incredibly brave and especially worthy of encouragement.”

Mrs. Palin endorsed more than 60 candidates during the 2010 election cycle with spotty results, but she has endorsed just seven Senate candidates this year, four of whom have won primaries.

She backed tea party candidates Richard Mourdock of Indiana, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Ted Cruz of Texas as they rose to win GOP primaries, and she also endorsed Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch in his primary victory.

Her lone unsuccessful Senate endorsement was of Missouri GOP candidate Sarah Steelman, who placed third last week in a crowded primary behind Rep. W. Todd Akin and John Brunner.

She also has endorsed Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, who is heavily favored to win his Aug. 28 primary.

There has been no major polling in the Maryland Senate race, but analysts generally consider Mr. Cardin to be one of the safest Senate incumbents up for re-election this year. He and Mr. Bongino won their respective primaries in April.

The senator raised nearly $4.6 million as of June 30, while Mr. Bongino has raised just $473,000 during a largely grass-roots campaign.