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Steven Senne, Associated Press
In this June 2, 2011, photo, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, holds a booklet depicting Paul Revere and speaks briefly with the media as she tours Boston's North End neighborhood.
There are few as committed to the cause of liberty and the ideals that have made this nation great as Sarah Palin. —Sen. Orrin Hatch

SALT LAKE CITY — Lightning rod conservative Sarah Palin's unexpected endorsement of Sen. Orrin Hatch might have little impact on the senator's re-election bid.

"I typically don't think endorsements are a big deal in either direction," said Quin Monson, associate director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU. "The effect of this endorsement depends on how widely liked and respected Sarah Palin is among Republican primary voters."

The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate announced her backing of Hatch on FOX News' "On the Record" Tuesday night, saying Washington needs "Mr. Balanced Budget."

“Orrin Hatch is part of the 1 percent. No, not that 1 percent you’ve heard about. He’s part of the 1 percent of national politicians who I think should be re-elected," Palin posted on Facebook.

In supporting Hatch, Palin bypassed his Republican primary opponent Dan Liljenquist, a conservative former state senator generally perceived to be more closely aligned with tea party ideals.

Hatch said he's honored for the endorsement.

"There are few as committed to the cause of liberty and the ideals that have made this nation great as Sarah Palin,” he said in a statement. “Her voice is critical to pushing for the real reforms that are essential to righting our fiscal ship and ensuring America is prosperous for our children and grandchildren."

The Hatch campaign had let Palin know it would like her endorsement but didn't know it was coming Tuesday night, said campaign manager Dave Hansen.

"We'd love to have her come out and stump for the senator," he said.

National research shows Palin's endorsements of candidates in 2010 didn't have much of an impact, Monson said. And Utahns' impression of Palin is divided.

"I suppose some really like her and some don't," he said. "I think she is beloved among a certain element of Republicans. Generally, she's much more of a mixed bag."

How the endorsement plays in the campaign remains to be seen. "My bottom line is I'll wait and see how widely this is spread and what the Hatch campaign makes of it," Monson said.

Hansen said Palin is a popular leader among tea party types and conservatives, and Hatch might use her endorsement in mailers or other campaign materials.

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