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Sarah Palin anoints a new 'mama grizzly': Does it make a difference?

Sarah Palin endorsed Wyoming State Auditor Rita Meyer as a ‘mama grizzly’ Thursday. The Wyoming gubernatorial candidate joins Palin’s growing sisterhood of conservative feminists.

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Without Palin’s endorsement, Haley “probably wouldn’t have done nearly as well in the first round,” says Jim Guth, a political scientist at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. “She might have come out first still, but I think it was quite a boost.”

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Haley won the runoff easily.

In California, the Senate campaign of Republican Carly Fiorina also credits Palin’s endorsement with giving the former HP CEO a critical late boost that solidified her credentials as a conservative and helped her win the GOP nomination.

Fewer than half of Palin’s endorsees are women –14 out of 33 – but it’s the women who get the attention. And they are helping to create the impression that it’s a big year for Republican women. Indeed, the GOP is fielding more women than usual in governor’s races – including California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and South Carolina – but there are just as many Democratic women running for governor (10) as Republican.

One race where Palin steered clear of an endorsement is the Colorado Senate GOP primary race, where former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton faces Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, the "tea party" favorite. Palin was expected to endorse Lieutenant Governor Norton, but then did not, perhaps to avoid clashing with her tea party supporters.

In the end, Palin’s “mama grizzlies” form a sisterhood of conservative feminists, who have sparked outrage among some liberal feminists, offended that someone who opposes abortion rights could be considered a true believer in women’s rights. If Palin runs for president, she already has the nucleus of her argument – that a new breed of conservative women is aiming high in public office and is as tough as they come, like mama grizzlies protecting their cubs.

IN PICTURES: Sarah Palin's fashion