Nice Work If You Can Get It

As Texans head to the polls today for primaries, the marquee contest is the GOP race for the nomination to succeed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. And some handicappers are as interested in which outside group or endorser proves “clout” by backing the winner as by the identity of the winner himself.

Prominent among those would-be power brokers, of course, is Sarah Palin, who (along with Jim DeMint and the Club for Growth) is backing Ted Cruz against front-runner David Dewhurst. And as Politico‘s Maggie Haberman and Emily Schultheis suggest, Palin is settling into a nice easy routine where she offers a small number of endorsements and builds a reputation as the Indispensable Woman of the Right:

So far this cycle, Palin has backed four GOP candidates in their primaries, and two have won (the others are Cruz and Hatch, who face voters starting today). Her support is guaranteed to generate headlines for the favored candidate, as she relies on her lengthy list of supporters to bring in an infusion of low-dollar donations from her grass-roots list….

Part surrogate and part celebrity, she continues to pick her candidates by keeping close counsel, consulting with a handful of people she knows in politics who have a sense of the races she chooses.

Having spent years stoking a mystique around her plans and her interests, Palin’s main talents lie in performing, argued one Republican operative who has worked on presidential campaigns.

In Madonna-like fashion, she is the master of “self-invention then self-reinsertion into the political churn,” the operative said. “I wouldn’t underestimate that. I wouldn’t rule out her ability to find a new way to express it or a new vehicle or a new method …. she sort of craves the attention. I don’t completely write off her ability [to re-enter the fray].”

To put it another way, Palin can relax in Wasilla or LA or wherever she wants to be and make her picks, usually via Facebook, and then take credit or avoid blame for the results as she sees fit. Since there will for the foreseeable future always be a place in the firmament of American conservatism for someone exactly like her–the vengeful martyr of sneering elitists, exuding a star power than is inextinguishable precisely because it is sure to be mocked–she will not go away.

Not bad for someone whose toxic example as a vice presidential candidate has frightened Team Romney to the point where it may place an actual bowl of tapioca on the ticket, eh?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.