Sarah Palin – feminist first, tea partyer second

Sarah Palin defends her endorsement of Carly Fiorina in the California Republican Senate primary over the tea party favorite. In speaking out against abortion, she rallies the 'pro-women sisterhood.'

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks at the Susan B. Anthony List 'Celebration of Life' breakfast May 14 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington.

Sarah Palin, it is now clear, is a feminist first and a “tea partyer” second.

Last week she endorsed businesswoman Carly Fiorina in the California Republican Senate primary, to the shock of tea party activists in that state, who tend to favor state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. Friday evening she is endorsing Nikki Haley in the GOP primary election for governor of South Carolina. Ms. Haley was once viewed as a long shot in that race (against three well-established men), but she is picking up steam following the endorsements of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and Jenny Sanford, ex-wife of Gov. Mark Sanford (R).

True, Haley, a state representative, is the tea party favorite in her race, so Ms. Palin isn’t taking any flak for her endorsement. But she is clearly still smarting over the Fiorina flap. In a speech Friday morning to the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) in Washington, Palin came back to the Fiorina endorsement right at the top.

“You all have endorsed her; you get it,” she said, referring to the SBA’s agenda of supporting anti-abortion women (and a few men) for Congress and other major elected office.

Palin rejects the “RINO” label – Republican In Name Only – that some Republicans have put on Ms. Fiorina, and she applauded the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard for her stands on abortion, guns, business, taxes, and size of government.

“There in the deep blue California, she is unabashedly pro-life and all those other common sense conservative things that she stands for,” Palin said.

In a day packed with public appearances, Palin was also a headline speaker Friday afternoon at the National Rifle Association convention in Charlotte, N.C.

But it was in her SBA speech that Palin made her case for conservative feminism. She spoke of the women leaders in the tea party movement, and likened activist moms to “mama grizzlies,” rising up against Washington to protect their cubs.

“I think a whole lot of moms ... are concerned about government handing our kids the bill; it's generational theft, too,” Palin said. “We're stealing opportunities from the future of America. We rise up and moms say, come on, now that's enough. That is enough and we're going to do something about this.”

Palin also made clear that in her view, modern conservative feminism means that having children and being active outside the home are not incompatible.

“Together, our pro-women sisterhood is telling these young women that they're strong enough and smart enough” to do both, she said. “They're capable to be able to handle an unintended pregnancy and still be able in less than ideal circumstances, no doubt, ... [to] give their child life in addition to pursuing career and pursuing education, pursuing avocations, though society wants to tell these young women otherwise.”

She spoke of her daughter Bristol’s experience with proceeding with an unplanned pregnancy and her own coming-to-terms with discovering while pregnant that her fifth child, son Trig, had special needs.

She also cited Gallup polling that shows more Americans view themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”

The latest poll, released Friday, showed 47 percent of Americans self-identify as “pro-life” versus 45 percent “pro-choice.” That’s nearly the same as the split Gallup found last July, 47 percent “pro-life” and 46 percent “pro-choice.” The “pro-life” advantage was greater last May – 51 percent “pro-life” to 42 percent “pro-choice.” But for the “pro-choice” camp, the numbers seem to settle far below where they were in the mid-1990s. In 1995, Gallup found 56 percent calling themselves “pro-choice” and 33 percent “pro-life.”


After this story was posted online, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager for communications, Julie Soderlund, wrote to point out a survey by the nonpartisan Field Poll taken in March that showed that Fiorina received more support from self-identified tea partyers in California than the other candidates. Among likely GOP primary voters who identify “a lot” with the tea party movement, Fiorina received 27 percent support versus 23 percent for former Rep. Tom Campbell and 12 percent for DeVore. Thirty-eight percent preferred “other” or were undecided.

With so many going for “other” or undecided, that’s a sign that many voters were not fully engaged in the race by mid-March. (There has not been more recent polling on tea party sentiment in the race. The primary is June 8.) Another point in the March poll gives one pause: Among self-identified “strongly conservative” primary voters, former Congressman Campbell came out ahead with 27 percent, Fiorina had 25 percent, and DeVore 13 percent. Campbell is clearly the least conservative candidate of the three.


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