The woman who, for a time, jump-started John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign moved Tuesday to put her political outsider credentials behind Donald Trump.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin flew into snowy Iowa to endorse the New York real estate titan’s bid for the White House, teaming two figures whose politics come from decidedly beyond the mainstream.
She told a rally in Ames that the Republican Party needed to step outside the political establishment if it truly wanted conservative change in government.
“Doggone right we’re angry, and justifiably so,” Palin said in a speech that voiced almost as much frustration with traditional Republican power brokers as it did with Democrats. “Yes, the status quo has got to go.”
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She described him as a commander in chief who would “keep us strong economically and militarily.”
Trump said that “when I heard that she was going to endorse me, I was so honored.”
It isn’t clear what Palin’s endorsement will mean for Trump. The former vice presidential candidate remains a favorite among many tea party Republicans, a significant part of the Iowa GOP. Her appearance on the McCain ticket electrified that campaign and built her a following that lasted well beyond that election year. But her apparent lack of deep policy understanding also proved a burden toward the end of the 2008 race.
Her endorsement no longer guarantees victory, even in a Republican primary. Palin endorsed Sarah Steelman in Missouri in 2012, and even spoke on her behalf. Former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin eventually won the GOP Senate primary that year.
Yet the Trump campaign described the endorsement as monumental. Earlier in the day, while he collected the endorsement of John Wayne’s daughter, Aissa Wayne, Trump said the Palin endorsement would be “very valuable.”
In a news release, the campaign said that “since 2009, she has supported over 150 conservative candidates, helping to flip over thirty U.S. House seats and 5 U.S. Senate seats to regain historic majorities. She helped launch the careers of several key future leaders of the Republican Party and conservative movement.”
And the campaign pointedly quoted Trump’s chief competitor in the polls, Sen. Ted Cruz, earlier saying, “I would not be in the United States Senate were it not for Gov. Sarah Palin … She can pick winners.”
Palin said last year that she was delighted to have the Texan and Trump to choose from. A spokesman for the senator and presidential candidate said Tuesday the campaign would be “deeply disappointed” if Palin endorsed Trump.
Earlier in the day, Trump evoked the legend of John Wayne and touted the endorsement of the Duke’s daughter .
At the campaign event at the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum, Aissa Wayne said Trump represented the ideals associated with her father.
“America needs somebody like John Wayne, Donald J. Trump,” she said.
Trump’s morning announcement launched a whirlwind two-day visit to Iowa, which will cast first-in-the-nation caucus ballots Feb. 1.
The New York businessman trails Cruz in most polls of Iowa voters, but it’s close. Cruz barnstormed the state earlier this month but isn’t expected in Iowa in the next few days.
When Trump supporter Judy Little learned of Palin’s endorsement Tuesday in Ames, she said “that in a lot of people’s minds it’ll hurt, but I always liked her.”
The data-hungry website FiveThirtyEight.com called Trump “Sarah Palin 2.0,” saying both were party outsiders who don’t match up on the issues with classically conservative Republicans. Conservative RedState.com called the endorsement “more or less expected news” and Breitbart.com said the move was “a potentially significant boost.” CNN called the news a “bombshell.”