COMMENTARY | Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., has served in the Senate for six terms and would like to have a seventh as a capstone of a long career of public service. Sarah Palin suggests the 80-year -old senator be denied that privilege.
Lugar is in the fight of his political life, facing a primary challenge from Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer. Mourdock is a tea party favorite, while many believe Lugar has been in Washington for too long, making too many of the compromises such as voting for bailouts that irk American conservatives.
Lugar is also unfortunate to be the first office holder to be designated to have his career ended in this election cycle, with the exception of President Barack Obama by Sarah Palin.
Using the tried and true strategy from 2010, Palin is asserting her power by offering her endorsement. Thanks to his tea party support, a poll showed Mourdock leading Lugar by five points, according to the Washington Post. The Palin endorsement, as with many of her endorsements in 2010, is designed to seal the deal for Mourdock and put him over the top in Indiana's May 8 primary.
Lugar is an institution and has gotten the support of the institutional republicans, including Palin's former running mate and Lugar's Senate colleague John McCain. If, however, as many expect, Lugar goes down, Palin will be seen as a giant killer. Therein, aside from ideological affinity with Mourdock, lays the reason for Palin's strategy.
There is nothing that quite instills fear in a public office holder than the prospect of losing that office. Palin aims to garner respect, based on that overwhelming fear, by using the power of her endorsement. With that respect comes a variety of quid pro quos for her support rather than her opposition. People in Congress will have to take into consideration what the Mama Grizzly thinks when dealing with an issue, lest they feel her claws. The more people Palin elects and defeats through her endorsements, the more consideration she'll get.
The power to influence the outcomes of elections is part of what makes Palin the most powerful female politician on the planet. Neither Angela Merkel nor Hillary Clinton can quite match that power. Thus is Palin someone for whom it is beneficial to cater to, but dangerous to cross.