Gov. Jan Brewer has delivered a crucial and sought-after endorsement in the Republican governor's race.
The governor endorsed former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, quickly revitalizing his candidacy in the six-person race.
Brewer has been courted by the top candidates as they look to break away from the pack in a tight race. She said Thursday at the Chicago Cubs spring training park that Smith shares her values on Medicaid expansion, Common Core, the economy and border.
Smith had been third in most polls, but has been gaining ground in the heated race that has the other two front-runners attacking each other in television ads.
"It makes a huge difference," political analyst Jaime Molera said of Brewer's endorsement. "There's no doubt about it. Every poll I've seen, Jan Brewer is still very popular with Republicans. I think she can have a difference in this race."
"People forget, she's raised a lot of money with her political action committee fund, so she has a lot of dollars sitting there and if she decides to take that war chest and dump it into the governor's race that is another facet that's going to make this very interesting."
On Wednesday night, former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin backed front-runner Doug Ducey's campaign with this Facebook post:
"Doug Ducey is the private sector job creator and proven conservative leader that Arizona needs as its next governor. A self-made man, Doug came to Arizona for college, working at the local beer distributor to pay his way through. After graduation, Doug applied his skills and work ethic to the business world.
"Through his efforts as CEO, Doug grew Cold Stone Creamery from a small local Tempe ice cream parlor with four stores into a major international chain with 1,400 franchises in 31 countries. Still headquartered in Arizona, this international business provides jobs and revenue for the state. Since being elected state treasurer, Doug has fought to close financial loopholes, fix the state's books, and stop a $1 billion annual tax increase.
"Doug recently shared his vision with me, which he will carry with him each day as Arizona's governor: 'I'm a believer in private enterprise, the dignity of work, limited government and the possibilities of freedom. I am a forthright defender of the right to bear arms – which is guaranteed not only by the U.S. Constitution, but by the Constitution of Arizona. I am a believer in the rights of the unborn and the goodness of every life, and I have promised that as governor I will champion those values.' Right on!
"Cold Stone Creamery was always a favorite stop for my family when traveling during the '08 campaign. Their creative combinations always hit the spot, and I believe Doug has the right combination to serve Arizona with his proven private sector skills and his record of conservative leadership. That's why I'm proud to join Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and many other conservatives in endorsing Doug Ducey for Arizona governor.
– Sarah Palin"
Christine Jones, the third of the favorites, has drawn the support of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Molera said he believes these heavyweight endorsements will drive Smith, Ducey and Jones to drop the gloves even more.
"It's going to turn up the heat and the rhetoric," Molera said. "It's going to create a lot of independent expenditures.
"It's already nasty. It's going to get even more nasty because now they are going to throw out a lot of mud hoping that in the next couple of weeks it sticks," Molera said.
Molera said he is surprised that likely Democratic nominee Fred Duval has been quiet when it comes to campaign ads.
He said the success of Duval's strategy will pay off in the Aug. 26 primary.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.