The value of a Sarah Palin endorsement

Regular Palin endorsements – like for Doug Hoffman in New York’s congressional race – could be a good way to build the Sarah Palin brand and help the Republican party.

So Sarah Palin has started endorsing candidates, by boosting conservative Doug Hoffman for an upstate New York congressional seat in tomorrow's elections. Maybe she should make that a regular practice. Endorsements matter, despite what the chattering heads say on cable news. And multiple Palin stamps of approval could be good for the recipients, the Republican Party, and ex-Governor Palin herself.

Plus, the ads would be fantastic. Decoder can see one now: "Hi, I'm Sarah Palin, Brander of MavericksTM . I've taken time from my busy schedule here in Alaska because it's important you know that [CANDIDATE NAME] is a maverick, just like me and Ronald Reagan. So vote for [HIM/HER] for [OFFICE], and remember the Mavericks‚ MottoTM : ‘Let's Keep Our Nation Wild and Free.' "

First of all, Decoder is aware that in that New York congressional race, Palin picked a third-party conservative, not the official GOP candidate. We're not here to talk about the past.

That official GOP choice – moderate Dede Scozzafava – has dropped out, and says she'll back the Democrat in the race. But according to a Siena College poll released Monday, it's Mr. Hoffman, Palin's pick, who has a five-point lead in the race.

Decoder is also aware that some pundits say endorsements generally are of little consequence. But many political scientists who actually study endorsements say they can make a difference.

In presidential primaries, endorsements from top officials can channel donations and volunteers to candidates. And a nod from a recognizable figure becomes ever more important the further down the electoral ladder one goes, from national to state and local offices.

Voters often don't know much about the candidates at lower levels. An endorsement is a symbol, a means of providing a quick identity in the absence of any other data.

"[Endorsements] play a greater role in the formation of public opinion when the information environment is less dense," writes DePaul University political scientist Wayne Steger in a 2007 paper on the subject.

Decoder thinks Sarah Palin should become a serial endorser, branding candidates for everything from Congress to city council.

For the endorsees, it would be a great way to stand out from a crowded field. For the GOP, it would raise name recognition for a branded group of promising young candidates. Palin's Mavericks could even hold periodic conventions. Think that would get news coverage?

And Palin herself? Running a stable of self-approved mavericks would boost her own power and status within the party – not to mention lead to more paid speeches and possibly a second book contract.

All of which sounds to Decoder like it would be easier, and more lucrative, than running for president in 2012.

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