Tonight on Hannity, Sarah Palin gave the Newt Gingrich campaign one heckuva sound bite. After praising his performance at last night's debate ("I do think that Newt is the one that won the debate"), Palin danced on the edge of an endorsement:
If I were a South Carolinian...I want to see this thing continue, because iron sharpens iron, steel sharpens steel.
These guys are getting better in their debates, they're getting more concise, they're getting more grounded in what their beliefs are and articulating what their ideas are to get the country back on the right track and get Americans working again.
If I had to vote in South Carolina in order to keep this thing going, I'd vote for Newt, and I would want this to continue, more debates, more vetting of candidates...
Not quite an endorsement, but certainly a strong encouragement to her many followers to vote for Gingrich. Last week, Todd Palin endorsed Gingrich, which many speculated was a test case for an eventual endorsement by the missus, and now we have tonight's Hannity appearance. Personally, I wish Palin would just rip off the band-aid and expressly endorse someone, anyone, but hey, this way is way more entertaining for all the bloggers, right?
Anyway, this race is far from over, folks. The actual number of delegates that have been awarded is so miniscule, it's the equivalent of calling a football game right after the opening kickoff. It's actually legally impossible for any candidate to have enough delegates to claim the nomination until well into April at the earliest.
UPDATE: Some other comments around the blogosphere on this non-endorsement endorsement:
Legal Insurrection | Sarah Palin: “If I had to vote in South Carolina in order to keep this thing going I’d vote for Newt”
UPDATE II: More links:
UPDATE III: Check out this excellent article from The Weekly Standard affirming my point above that the race is far from over, and also how extending the contest good for the Republican cause across the board:
...[T]here’s something ludicrous about claiming that a candidate who wins perhaps a third of the vote in three states that together account for 3 percent of the U.S. population, is the inevitable winner in a nationwide race...
Additionally, with the Republican field having been whittled down to a much more manageable five candidates...the candidates now have the chance to engage in more substantial examinations of issues, ideas, and each other’s credentials. Having withstood an abundance of 8-candidate debates with 30-second answers just to get to this point, it would be a shame for the GOP to stop staging debates right when they’ve started to get good. Indeed, the party would benefit greatly from having many more debates among this smaller field, as the candidates now have the chance to give somewhat longer, more substantial answers and engage in more give and take...
...Romney should actually welcome additional chances to hone his skills at this level. After all, if he isn’t confident that he can beat Newt Gingrich without a Mike Tyson-style early round knockout — secured mostly through a huge advantage in cash and a resulting barrage of negative advertising in Iowa — then what chance does he really have of beating Obama? Forget Tyson: Romney needs to be training for a “Thrilla in Manila”-like bout with Obama. He needs to be prepared to go 14 or 15 rounds — or, at the least, 7 or 8. And no sparring partner in his own gym would hit nearly as hard as Gingrich.
For a party that (rightly) sings the praises of competition at nearly every turn, Republicans can be strangely blind to its virtues in our politics. Is Romney a better candidate now than he was in the summer? Indisputably, he is. Would he be an even better candidate this coming summer if he doesn’t have the luxury of merely coasting along for the next several months? Yes, he would be.Read the rest here.