McDaniel said Palin's endorsement, if it comes, would be an unquestionable boon, especially in a deep red state like Mississippi, where GOP primaries are dominated by a small-but-motivated base electorate. Even during the high-profile Republican presidential primary of 2012, only about 300,000 people cast ballots. That's in a state with nearly 2 million registered voters.
"Sarah Palin understands that there is a movement out there of good conservatives and just regular people," McDaniel told CNN. "She taps into that. We would absolutely welcome her."
Palin's ability to propel tea party-aligned candidates into office was a well-documented phenomenon in 2010, when she endorsed over 60 Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates, the majority of whom won. Her midterm travels even inspired The Washington Post to launch a "Palin Endorsements Tracker," complete with clickable audio of a growling grizzly bear, an homage to her self-styled "Mama Grizzly" image.
A 'media blowtorch'
Though Palin's political action committee, Sarah PAC, doled out contributions to her favored candidates, her endorsements bring more than just hard dollars.
When Palin showed up in South Carolina to endorse Nikki Haley during her 2010 gubernatorial primary, a race Haley went on to win, a Republican working for a rival campaign calculated that the event generated "over a million dollars" in television and radio coverage.
"There was absolutely no way when that endorsement came down to break through the news cycle," the Republican said of Palin. "It was an earned media blowtorch."
Palin's star was burning much hotter in 2010 than it is today, but she demonstrated similar clout last year in Nebraska's three-way Republican Senate primary -- and she did so without even traveling to corn country.
In that race, establishment figures had lined up behind attorney general Jon Bruning, while outside conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the Club For Growth backed state treasurer Don Stenberg, who also had the backing of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
But Palin jumped in the race late and got behind Deb Fischer, a little-known state legislator, pushing her over the finish line and stunning the political class in Washington. Fischer coasted to a win in November and is now a United States senator.
The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call described the Palin endorsement as "an adrenaline shot six days before the GOP primary." Fischer's campaign manager, Aaron Trost, said Palin helped them "dictate the tempo of the last week of the campaign." All Palin did was post a statement of support online.
"Before she endorsed we were down four points, within the margin of error and coming up slightly, and then all of a sudden the narrative changed and we dominated the news cycle," Trost said. "People who underestimate the power of her endorsement are going to be really sorry. People that write her off don't understand Republican primaries."
Given the tea party's toxic national brand -- only 31 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the conservative movement in a recent CNN poll -- Palin's sway is almost certainly limited to Republican primaries.
Democrats welcomed polarizing Palin to Garden State
Earlier this month, Palin campaigned on behalf of New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, who ultimately fell to Democrat Cory Booker in last week's special election.
Like few Republicans can, she attracted thousands of fired-up, flag-waving conservatives to an out-of-the-way motor speedway in the middle of the state, but Democrats were equally pumped to welcome the polarizing Palin to the Garden State. "Sarah Palin's endorsing Lonegan thrills both parties," read one headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Still, Palin continues to wield great influence among grassroots conservatives, Trost argued, especially in Republican primaries in right-leaning states like Nebraska, where winning a primary all-but-guarantees a general election victory over token Democratic opposition. About 200,000 people participated in last year's Nebraska Senate primary, and Fischer essentially won a Senate seat with barely 80,000 votes.
"People forget about this sometimes, but because Sarah Palin has a child with Down syndrome, a lot of people in the pro-life community view her as not just talking the talk about pro-life but walking the walk," Trost said. "Social issues play a big factor in a low turnout Republican primary."
Despite Palin's veiled threat to campaign against veteran senators like McConnell, Cochran, Alexander and Graham, her endorsement history reveals a preference for dabbling in open primaries, rather than endorsing challengers over incumbents.
There's also the fact that each of those senators has a long-standing relationship with her former ticket-mate and political patron from 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain, whom she continues to hold in high esteem, people close to her say. As for Graham, one of McCain's closest pals, Palin donated $1,000 to his 2014 re-election campaign through her PAC back in 2009.
Aligning herself with tea party's new guard
At the same time, Palin is now aligning herself with members of the tea party's uncompromising new guard, especially Cruz, who has made plain his distaste for old bull Senate leadership.
Palin's relationship with Cruz dates to last year, when she endorsed him during his underdog Republican primary bid in 2012. It was Cruz who introduced Palin when she spoke at CPAC in March.
During the shutdown, Palin and her husband Todd traveled to Washington to appear with Cruz and Lee at a rally to re-open the temporarily shuttered World War II memorial.
The conservative quartet later joined up with Cruz's wife for lunch at Hill Country Barbecue, a casual downtown Washington restaurant known for its brisket.