WASHINGTON -- "It's not about me, it's about all of us who are trying to wake up America," said former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in an Oct. 5 announcement that she would not seek the nomination for president in 2012. Palin's supporters met her decision with a mix of resignation and, in some cases, outrage. At the same time, the already announced Republican presidential candidates hastened to praise Palin, a conservative icon with a grassroots base that includes many small donors.
That praise came as very few of her hardcore supporters had lined up behind other candidates.
A review of campaign finance records by The Huffington Post shows that, as of Sept. 30, only 337 individuals of the more than 3,500 who had donated more than $250 to Palin's political action committee, Sarah PAC, had also given to another Republican candidate prior to Palin's announcement.
"[T]he support behind Sarah Palin is steadfast," Tami Nantz, a blogger at Moms 4 Sarah Palin, wrote via email. "Those of us who support her wholeheartedly believe that she is the woman for the job, and because of that, we were unwilling to throw our support behind another candidate until we knew for certain whether or not she would be running."
The mostly untapped Palin donor pool is very large and dedicated to the former Alaska governor. Aside from the 3,500 donors who gave more than $250, thousands of others gave less than that amount and consequently were not reported to the Federal Election Commission. In total, Sarah PAC raised $7.35 million from 2009 through June 2011.
The biggest beneficiary of contributions from Palin donors happened to be the candidate who lavished the most praise on Palin upon her decision not to run. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who raised $86,495 in contributions from 155 Sarah PAC donors, said upon Palin's exit from the race, "Governor Palin is a dear friend of mine, and I think the world of her. She has been an important voice in the conservative movement and has a lifetime of opportunities ahead of her."
The Minnesota congresswoman has long been compared to Palin by the media, and not just because the two are women. They are both social conservatives who present themselves as anti-establishment figures more in tune with the Tea Party than the Republican establishment. They are also both known to fire from the hip, often shooting themselves in the foot with off-the-cuff remarks.
Following Bachmann, Herman Cain received contributions from 59 Sarah PAC donors. Other recipients of Sarah PAC donor contributions include Mitt Romney (57 donors), Rick Perry (51), Newt Gingrich (30), Ron Paul (28), Rick Santorum (10) and Jon Huntsman (1).
Many of the donors gave to multiple candidates. Twelve gave to both Bachmann and Cain, making them the most popular combination contribution.
Some in the Palin universe believe that since her announcement, her supporters have or will soon pick a GOP candidate.
"Many are supporting other candidates at this point, while others remain undecided," Stacy Drake, an editor of the website Conservatives4Palin.com, said via email. "One thing for sure is that Palin supporters are engaged and active, so candidates would be wise to reach out to them and listen to their concerns."
"Certainly some are not going to be satisfied with any candidate that isn't Sarah Palin, while others are simply not happy with any of the rest of the current crop," Nantz added. "Many, however, feel very much like I do -- I will vote, in the primaries, for the most solid, outspoken conservative still standing on the stage. In the general election, I will vote for whoever the Republican candidate is that runs against the President, even if it is Mitt Romney."
Others have decided that the current crop of GOP candidates is unacceptable and have mounted a campaign to persuade Palin to change her mind -- or, as the campaign is titled, "Reconsider." The Reconsider campaign was launched on Conservatives4Palin.com and has received play across the Palin blogosphere.
But success looks unlikely as the former governor announced Tuesday that she has a good idea of which candidate she plans to endorse. A report from RealClearPolitics on Wednesday indicated that Palin is leaning toward endorsing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.