At last count, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed 27 candidates since 2009. Of those candidates, 22 have gone on to victory in special elections or primaries.
In some cases, such as California Congressional Republican nominee Star Jones, the candidates faced little to no adversity in the primary campaigns, but will face daunting elections in November; in other cases, such as New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez, candidates who once faced long odds surged almost exclusively because of Sarah Palin's endorsement.
Perhaps the most widely discussed example of this is in Delaware, where Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell beat nine-term Congressman and former governor Mike Castle to capture the Republican nomination for Vice President Joe Biden's former U.S. Senate seat. While O'Donnell's prospects for beating the Democrat in that race aren't great (Delaware leans heavily to the left), it's important to remember that she was virtually dismissed as a viable candidate by the establishment GOP earlier this year.
Most of Palin's endorsements were made via her Facebook page, and several of the candidates lucky enough to receive her endorsement weren't even aware it until Palin posted it. While Palin's endorsements were usually accompanied by campaign contributions, their otherwise impersonal nature might lead some to believe the endorsements wouldn't carry much weight with everyday voters. In the crowded Arizona Republican primary, however, dentist Paul Gosar was a statistical long shot, yet rode Palin's Facebook endorsement to victory. He now leads the Democratic opponent in a conservative district by seven points.
In late September, Gosar was the only candidate previously endorsed by Palin to appear on her relaunched "Take Back the 20" campaign. The effort aims to defeat 20 Congressional Democrats who voted for ObamaCare even though their districts voted for the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008. For Democratic candidates appearing on this list, Palin's focused energy may very well spell their defeat. If an impersonal endorsement made hundreds or even thousands of miles away is enough to lift a candidate to victory in a primary, imagine the impact Palin could have when she focuses her energy on conservative districts with Democratic incumbents and appears in person to support the Republican challengers.
Undoubtedly, Democrats will continue to ridicule Palin and her endorsements, but in areas where their constituents are predominantly conservative, this could prove to be a career-ending mistake. This is no longer 2008. Palin has closed the credibility gap among many doubters on the right, and has managed to find favor with the majority of Republicans. Whether enough conservative Democrats and independents will get on board remains to be seen.
But given her track record thus far, I wouldn't bet against her.