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Why Won’t Palin Just Endorse Newt?

Last night wasn’t the first time Sarah Palin has beseeched Republicans to vote for Newt Gingrich. But it was the latest step in Palin’s strange Gingrich dance, in which she defends the former speaker, praises him, calls on voters to vote for him – but stops just short of officially endorsing him. The Globe and Mail reports:

There is a curious dance Sarah Palin is doing lately with Newt Gingrich, and it goes something like this: do not formally endorse Mr. Gingrich, but on the eve of key state primaries make an appearance on Fox News TV and deliver what sounds an awful lot like an endorsement.

The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate did it ahead of the South Carolina primary, saying that if she were a South Carolinian she would ”vote for Newt.” Mr. Gingrich welcomed the lift and credited Ms. Palin’s comments with helping his South Carolina campaign. “She’s an enormous help. She’s a big help in the South Carolina victory,” he told Fox News.

Palin has repeatedly claimed she’s simply trying to “keep the race going.” But as Allahpundit notes, this excuse has its problems:

Has any Fox News reporter thought to ask her point-blank yet whether in theory that would mean encouraging people to vote for Romney if suddenly there were a big momentum shift and Newt started winning states? Somehow it’s hard for me to imagine that, but she should at least have a chance to answer. Also, what’s the endgame here? The idea is that the race should roll on because “competition breeds success.” Fair enough; in that case, presumably undecideds in any given state should vote for whichever candidate is behind at any given moment in order to extend the primary as long as possible. Is that correct, or are we looking at a shorter timeline? I’m skeptical that there are many Republicans who want this race to go all the way to the convention while Obama builds up his arsenal, but presumably most voters are happy to let it go on a while longer. How long is optimal? Super Tuesday? A bit longer than that? I’m asking earnestly. Click the image to watch.

So why no endorsement? There are plenty of possible explanations, but two initially come to mind. First, Palin could lose whatever remains of her reputation as a “kingmaker” if she throws her weight behind Gingrich and he loses. Second, she could be holding out hope for a brokered convention – plenty of conservatives still do – and maybe thinks she could end up getting tapped for the nomination. That one’s a lot less plausible. Not only would she have to be wildly delusional, if she had presidential aspirations, why wouldn’t she have just run in the primaries?

Here’s another thought. Would an official endorsement conflict with her current role as a Fox News commentator covering the primaries? I can’t think of any of them who have made endorsements yet. Karl Rove is pretty clearly rooting for Mitt Romney, but he also hasn’t backed him officially. Palin may be able to help Gingrich more as a “neutral” analyst of the race than as an official endorser who would likely have to disclose her support on the air.


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