Is Sarah Palin the secret weapon in Republican National Chairman Michael Steele's re-election campaign? Some members of the Republican National Committee think so. They expect her to bestow her backing on the former Maryland lieutenant governor's bid for a second term as party chair. The duo appeared together on Steele's recent coast-to-coast "Fire Pelosi" bus tour. And Steele came to Palin's defense on national television this week, telling critics of the former Alaska governor to "shut up." Palin's endorsement would be a valuable asset in the coming chairmanship fight and could help counter those who say Steele is the wrong person to head the party going into the 2012 presidential cycle. Steele has not publicly announced his candidacy, but he's campaigning hard for another two-year term. According to RNC insiders, he's already lined up half the votes he needs. If Mama Grizzly embraces Steele as her kind of outside-the-Beltway, anti-establishment Republican, the anti-Steele forces are likely to portray it as payback for generous financial help Palin got from the RNC earlier this year. Some $250,000 from the party treasury was used to pay her legal bills dating from the 2008 campaign. The story got relatively little attention but a Palin endorsement in the chairman's race could give it wider currency. RNC spokesman Doug Heye has been quoted as saying that Steele and Palin have a "great working relationship." If she runs for president, could it hurt to have the top guy at national party headquarters watching out for her interests?