Sarah Palin has become the endorsement queen. Candidates have flocked to her office in search of the golden seal of approval. Why? Because in the past, it meant that the candidate was supposedly the “true conservative” and “Washington outsider” in the race. But her latest endorsement of Utah’s three-decade incumbent, Orrin Hatch, has many Tea Party activists wondering what is going on.

That’s right. As opposed to some of her other recent Senate candidate endorsements, Palin decided not to go with the outsider, not to go with the anti-incumbent sentiment, and not go with the anti-establishment candidate. In her endorsement of Orrin Hatch, Palin throws her support for a 36-year incumbent who has on more than one occasion sought to work with the likes of Ted Kennedy.

On her SarahPac web site, Palin had this to say about Hatch:

I join other conservatives like Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and Tea Party leaders like Sal Russo in encouraging Utah voters to return Orrin Hatch to the U.S. Senate. Since Mark Levin has always got a way with words, read what he recently told Senator Hatch: “I feel that you would be… a terrific elder statesman to a lot of these other young guys who I’m going to be pushing in these other states.” I’m with Mark. That’s spot on.

We need Orrin’s conservative Reagan-like leadership – and our new crop of conservative senators Richard Mourdock, Deb Fischer, and Ted Cruz might need some friendly advice finding their way around the Senate.

But reaction to this endorsement has been less than stellar. As noted at, the endorsement has generated a flood of Twitter responses:

@BrainLemon — LOL… Palin endorses Hatch! What a crazy maverick she is endorsing the incumbent!

@michaelpleahy — Sarah Palin’s endorsement of long-in-tooth RINO Orrin Hatch severely damages her credibility w #teaparty constitutional conservatives #tcot

@MaroonedInMarin — Seriously, Orrin Hatch? Sorry @SarahPalinUSA I’m going to have to disagree with you. Teddy K’s designated driver needs to be retired

The staff report goes on to note that the endorsement runs counter to some of her recent picks such as “Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Ted Cruz in Texas, and Deb Fischer in Nebraska.”

A report on National Review dives more into the endorsement and Hatch’s overall efforts over the last two years to court conservatives. The Palin endorsement was no accident.

Hatch openly acknowledges that he has long and doggedly sought Palin’s support. For him, strong personal relationships are an elemental part of politics. They do not trump his principles, he says, but they have enabled him to become a force on Capitol Hill.

Strategic relationships may also be the reason Hatch keeps his seat. Beyond Palin, the 78-year-old senator has assiduously wooed tea-party activists and conservatives over the past two years, keenly aware of the challenge he faces in Utah’s upcoming primary.

Here’s a video about Dan Liljenquist, the man Palin did not endorse:

Does the Palin endorsement matter? What kind of message does it send to the Tea Party, which is built upon supporting conservative outsiders? One thing is for sure, many Tea Party activists simply don’t know what to think about it.

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