At the National Rifle Association's annual meeting on Saturday night, Sarah Palin told the crowd that she approves of torturing prisoners — and maybe converting them? "If I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists," she said, to raucous applause. Problem is, Palin's not in charge anymore.
Though the NRA devotees appreciated her sentiment, Palin just doesn't command crowds the way she used to, The Washington Post's Robert Costa reports on Monday. "These days many followers ... have moved on," and she's a "diminished figure in the Republican Party," Costa writes. "Even as she travels to Iowa and elsewhere to bolster her handpicked candidates, her influence in these midterm elections has been eclipsed by a new class of stars and her circle has narrowed ..." At a Sunday campaign event for Joni Ernst, the hog-castrating Senate candidate from Iowa, only 50 people stuck around to shake Palin's hand.
And her waterboarding-is-just-like-baptism statement has already offended Christians who'd be otherwise inclined to support Palin. The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway writes:
I've long defended Palin against the offensive treatment she's received at the hands of a blatantly biased media ... When my husband (who was baptized 10 years ago today, as it happens) told me about this, I had a hard time believing that she actually said it.
But Palin did, and Hemingway finds the statement to be "sacrilegious." She continues, "Joking about baptism in the context of this aggressive action suggests that we don’t think baptism is as life-giving or important as it is."
Costa notes that even candidates who still want Palin's endorsement aren't seeing entirely positive results. Palin backed Lizbeth Benacquisto in a special Republican primary for a House seat in Florida this month, as well as Katrina Pierson in a primary challenge against Texas Rep. Pete Sessions. Both lost. RedState's Erick Erickson admitted to Costa, "She has some pull with the base, but it has fallen a little bit."
Palin probably realizes that her influence is waning. At Ernst's event on Sunday, she told the small crowd, "We’re going to do everything we can to help and hopefully not hurt [Ernst's] campaign."