Right Ohio brings us the news that Seth Morgan, the Tea Party Republican candidate for Auditor of State, was excluded from the private Ohio Right to Life reception featuring Sarah Palin. The angle I’m going with on this story isn’t so much that Morgan was excluded (his primary opponent, Dave Yost, couldn’t get in either), but rather the reported reaction of Palin’s people to Morgan’s exclusion:
Seth Morgan did not buy a ticket in advance to the reception, Sarah Palin’s people and major Ohio Right to Life donors invited him in- repeatedly. . . .
While the Morgan campaign has absolutely no interest in commenting on thus (sic), his supporters are speaking up. And I’m hearing through the grapevine that Tom Norris, Lara (Mastin) Norris, Tim Crawford (who works closely with Palin’s team… The event wouldn’t of happened without him.), and many others were royally pissed because of this situation.
Emphasis mine. Reading the tea leaves a bit, I think this reaction and the fact that Morgan has supporters who work closely with the Palin team indicates that Palin will eventually endorse Seth Morgan for Auditor of State.
I know, I know — this race is too small for Sarah Palin. But follow my reasoning for a minute…
As a Politico piece from February makes clear, Palin is intensely interested in Ohio and has been since 2008. As John McCain’s running mate, she held more campaign events in Ohio than in any other state. She has been back to Ohio on numerous occasions since then, the most recent being her ORTL event. Her political action committee, SarahPAC, has donated a combined total of $10,500 to John Kasich, Mary Taylor, Rob Portman, and Jean Schmidt — and her involvement in these races clearly has Ohio Democrats running scared.
Reading the tea leaves a bit more, this is incredibly smart if she intends to run for president in 2012 (and I believe she does). Shoring up support with and building enthusiasm among Ohio’s conservatives would be important for the primaries, but even moreso for the general election given Ohio’s perpetual status as a key battleground state.
That’s where Seth Morgan comes in. As far as primaries go, no other race has energized Tea Partiers more than Morgan’s contest with Delaware County prosecutor Dave Yost. Others, like Tom Ganley and Sandra O’Brien, have certainly tried but none have been as successful as Morgan in capturing and maintaining active Tea Party support. For a lot of conservatives, the Auditor of State race has become a referendum on how the Ohio Republican Party does business and is a struggle for the people’s right to decide who will lead us in the future.
Translation? Normally the Auditor of State race would be too insignificant to attract the attention of a national figure like Palin, but these aren’t normal circumstances. At the moment, this primary race matters more to Tea Partiers than any other race.
Given her interest in Ohio, and given that there is overlap between Team Seth and Team Sarah, it seems increasingly likely to me that there will be a Palin endorsement for Morgan. If she has presidential ambitions in 2012, an endorsement just makes sense. The growing Tea Party movement in this state will certainly remember her involvement in this important primary, which will give her an enthusiasm edge that other candidates will lack. It will help her build a base that will be grateful to her for intervening on behalf of the people’s candidate to counterbalance the support of Ohio’s Republican establishment for Dave Yost.
One open question is what form such an endorsement might take. It’s possible that she will actually make some sort of statement, but I think it’s more likely that SarahPAC will simply contribute to Morgan’s campaign and not to Yost’s. Even such a tacit endorsement would make her support for Morgan clear, further energize the Tea Party movement for Morgan, and indicate to donors which way the political wind is blowing.
So, you heard it here first: I think Sarah Palin will endorse Seth Morgan for Ohio Auditor of State. I’m on record. Prepare to be in awe of my mad tea leaf reading skills when my prediction comes true.