- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2016

Sarah Palin’s latest effort to unseat a Republican leader fell short when House Speaker Paul D. Ryan cruised to a victory in his primary, easily dispatching the insurgent Mrs. Palin had backed.

It’s the latest episode in which the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has seen her star fall as the tea party movement she championed has splintered and the former Alaska governor’s populist appeal has been overshadowed by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s far more outspoken campaign.

Mr. Trump, who welcomed Mrs. Palin’s endorsement ahead of the Iowa caucuses and deployed her on the campaign trail for him in Florida, has kept her at arm’s length since wrapping up the race. She didn’t speak at the Republican National Convention and has been pushed to the side as a surrogate as Mr. Trump elevates more centrist Republicans such as former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“She speaks to a part of the GOP primary base, but when it comes to general election messaging, she can really complicate things,” said Craig Robinson, a former GOP consultant who runs “The Iowa Republican” website. “So I think a lot of people stay away.”

That hasn’t quelled her own support for Mr. Trump, and she continues to defend him — and fire at liberals, the media and her other critics from atop her Twitter perch, with its 1.28 million followers, and elsewhere online.

In a July column for the Independent Journal Review, Mrs. Palin said her endorsement of Mr. Trump cost her jobs and attention.

“I’ve been asked all year questions like why it seems I’m ‘relegated’ to outsider status of current political machines; why there’s no longer a seat at the talking heads TV table; why previous ‘friends’ commence public condemnation of me despite me never changing my values, priorities or loyalties to the right causes,” she wrote.

But she insisted she is more committed than ever to the cause of upsetting the establishment.

After her vice presidential run, some analysts predicted Mrs. Palin would be in the running for the top of the ticket in 2012 or 2016. But she took a pass. Instead, she has fired shots from the sidelines, albeit with less of an audience.

“Five years ago, she would have drawn 25,000 people to an event, and today she would do well drawing 2,500,” said Ken Crow, a tea party activist in Iowa.

Mr. Crow said Mrs. Palin remains a beloved figure — though some were turned off by her decision to back Mr. Trump over Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, whom many see as the ideological chief of the grass-roots movement.

“Although we realize her political stock is not what it used to be, her devotion to country and conservatism is stronger than ever,” Mr. Crow said. “We do love her, but realize that she will never be president. We realize that she will never be vice president, but she is one of the moral and emotional leaders of the tea party movement and she always will be because she preaches conservative values.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to emails seeking comment about the role she will play in the general election campaign, and Mrs. Palin could not be reached for comment.

On Twitter, she has spent recent weeks mixing politics with praise for U.S. Olympic athletes.

Her chief political cause, besides attacking the press, had been boosting Paul Nehlen, the tea partyer who challenged Mr. Ryan in the primary for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District seat.

“I think Paul Ryan is soon to be Cantored, as in Eric Cantor,” Mrs. Palin said during an appearance on CNN, alluding to the former House majority leader’s stunning 2014 primary loss in his Virginia House race. “His political career is over, but for a miracle, because he has so disrespected the will of the people.”

After hesitation, Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Ryan, who went on to win a stunning 84 percent of the vote.

Mr. Robinson said it appears that as far as elected politics go, Mrs. Palin’s “role has been diminished to the point where she is a role player in primaries.”

“In [2008], I think people were looking at her as the future of the party, and I don’t think anyone is looking at her like that today,” he said. “Maybe she knows her role and that she can be useful in a primary setting.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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