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Palin clout helps shape the Senate


Richard Mourdock has something in common with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Sarah Steelman, who is seeking the GOP Senate nomination in today’s Missouri primary:

Sarah Palin has supported all of them in highly competitive primaries.

Mourdock and Hatch would have likely won even without Palin’s seal of approval, but she may well have been a key factor in Cruz’s surprise 14-point victory last week in Texas. And some political observers believe the former vice presidential nominee and Alaska governor may have been the deciding factor in Deb Fischer’s surprise victory in the Nebraska GOP primary. Fischer is “a relatively unknown state senator and decided underdog in Nebraska who came out of nowhere to win after a critical late endorsement from Palin,” David Catanese wrote on in a column headlined “Sarah Palin: Senate Kingmaker.”

Tea party conservatives hope Palin extends her win streak today in Missouri with an upset victory by Steelman, who faces two better-funded and better-known candidates.

Catanese writes that while Palin staffers do some vetting of candidates, Palin makes the decisions on whom and whom not to endorse.

Dead heat

An independent poll shows that Mourdock, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, and Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly are in a virtual tie. Rassmussen Reports lists the horse race at 42 percent for Mourdock and 40 percent for Donnelly. But with a margin of error of 5 percentage points and the poll’s finding that 15 percent of voters are undecided, the race is a statistical tie, and either candidate could win by capturing the votes of currently undecided Hoosiers.

One telling finding in the poll: People who described themselves as political moderates backed Donnelly 50 percent to 23 percent. No wonder Democrats had wanted Mourdock to beat Richard Lugar in the primary.

Stats and votes

Mike Pence probably won at least some votes last week when he said he would cut Indiana income taxes by 10 percent if he is elected governor. But given that the state’s income tax rate is 3.4 percent, that would be a cut of 0.34, or about one-third of 1 percent.

For someone making $40,000 a year, the cut would be $136 for the year, or about $2.60 a week. For many workers, any cut beats any increase. Yes, every little bit helps, but we are talking no more than a little bit.

Funny that when discussing tax cuts, politicians are prone to announce the biggest number possible, but when it comes to tax hikes, the opposite is true. Remember that when Gov. Mitch Daniels and state legislators decided to raise the state’s income tax from 6 to 7 percent, they kept talking about a 1 percent increase. That increase of 1 percentage point was an increase of 17 percent.

Tracy Warner, editorial page editor, has worked at The Journal Gazette since 1981. He can be reached at 461-8113 or by email,