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Sarah Palin's candidates having bad week. Could darling of 'tea party' voters be losing her touch?

May 26, 2010 |  8:39 am

South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley gets get endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
During primary season, Sarah Palin's endorsement was seen as a gift from the heavens in Republican circles -- the seal of good housekeeping for "tea party" activists. Candidates who received the former Alaska governor's blessing soon soared in the polls, as money and volunteers poured in. Ditto the spotlight of national attention.

Now, it's easy to wonder if Palin's political Midas touch has turned to rust.

In Kentucky, the self-professed oracle for tea party anger has gotten himself in trouble with his mouth. First Rand Paul questioned the 1964 Civil Rights Act for forcing private businesses to integrate public spaces. Then he defended BP, the petroleum company that has been leaking thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for more than a month. As the White House escalated the rhetoric against BP for failing to cap the spill, Paul said criticizing business is "un-American." Finally, as the Ticket noted Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who, you may recall, backed Paul's opponent in the race -- virtually ordered Paul to cancel all national TV interviews, including one scheduled for Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

In Idaho on Tuesday, tea party congressional candidate Vaughn Ward lost the Republican primary. This despite Palin's endorsement but after disclosures, as Ticket reported Tuesday, that Ward plagiarized not only position papers but Barack Obama's famous address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the one that launched the president's national career.

In South Carolina, gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley -- Palin's pick in a crowded field of Republican contenders -- is battling allegations from a former consultant that Haley, a married woman with two children, had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with him. Palin says she warned her of smears to come.

The tea party activists have undoubtedly brought passion to politics, as has Palin. But national Republicans are starting to worry that a too-conservative message could cost them elections. So it's not uncommon these days to see Palin and the Republican Party on different sides in primary fights.

In the state of Washington, for instance, Palin is backing Clint Didier, a former Washington Redskins player. On her Twitter account she called him a "patriot running for U.S. Senate to serve his state & our country for all the right reasons!" Like Paul, he veers toward libertarianism, arguing that "we need to stop trying to police the world and telling other nations how to manage their affairs. It is depleting our wealth and draining our national spirit. America is a republic; therefore let’s stop trying to spread 'democracy.'" Meanwhile, establishment Republicans want Dino Rossi, a two-time candidate for governor who they think can actually beat Sen. Patty Murray in November.

Maybe this is why Democrats are starting to think that 2010 may not be the blowout against them that was widely predicted. In Pennsylvania, in a special election to fill the seat long held by Democrat Jack Murtha, Mark Critz managed to defeat tea party favorite Tim Burns. Afterward, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, "The hype ... hit the brick wall of reality."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: South Carolina's Nikki Haley after getting Sarah Palin's endorsement. Credit: Associated Press

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