JUNEAU, Alaska l Sarah Palin the political pragmatist? Go figure.
With a few surprising endorsements in recent Republican primaries, the self-styled rogue of GOP politics has reaped an angry response from some of her supporters and a fresh round of speculation about her own presidential ambitions in 2012.
"Man, what a terrible choice in Iowa, Sarah," Meghan Swella wrote on Mrs. Palin's Facebook wall after the former Alaska governor announced her support for Terry Branstad in last week's gubernatorial primary.
"I guess you got co-oped by the milk toast moderates. I thought you were better than that," she scolded.
In choosing Mr. Branstad, Mrs. Palin skipped over businessman Bob Vander Plaats, a tea-party favorite, in favor of a former governor with a strong chance of returning to office - and wielding political power when the Iowa presidential caucuses roll around.
"She's playing her cards and trying to set herself up" for making a push, should she run, said Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire who is watching to see who, or whether, Mrs. Palin endorses in his state.
Mrs. Palin also backed former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina in last Tuesday's California Senate primary and got a backlash on Facebook, a preferred way for Mrs. Palin to communicate with supporters.
To critics who said Mrs. Fiorina was a Republican in name only, Mrs. Palin countered: "Most importantly, Carly is the only conservative in the race who can beat Barbara Boxer. That's no RINO. That's a winner."
For some conservatives, that's also a problem.
Shelby Blakely, executive director of the Tea Party Patriots' online publication, New Patriot Journal, said Mrs. Palin's endorsement has become "so undependable, it's marginalized itself."
While she once thought highly of Mrs. Palin, Miss Blakely said that over the past two years, the "Going Rogue" author has gone more establishment, and Mrs. Palin's failure to criticize her own party is bothersome. "There's room for criticism (all around)," Miss Blakely said. "If you're not willing to call it where you see it, that's useless."
Miss Blakely said she thinks Mrs. Palin will endorse the most conservative candidate she can. But when there's a party-establishment candidate in the running or one who had some ties with the McCain-Palin 2008 ticket, "she'll go with that," Miss Blakely said.
Whatever the impact on her wider public, Mrs. Palin's endorsement translates into crowds and valuable media attention for her preferred candidates, and her message reaches millions of people.
Arkansas state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe said she was "thrilled" to get Mrs. Palin's endorsement, even if it came in the last days of a tough congressional primary race that she wound up losing. "It came when it came, and I was glad to get it whenever it came," she said.
She said friends of hers who knew Mrs. Palin sought an endorsement on her behalf and that she learned of it, shortly before everyone else, with a call from Mrs. Palin.
Mrs. Palin's endorsement is "the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for conservatives," said Julie Soderlund, a Fiorina spokeswoman. But the campaign has yet to decide whether it will seek Mrs. Palin's help in the fall, when independents and Democrats will be listening.
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