Sarah Palin Endorses Donald Trump for Republican Presidential Nomination

Election '16

Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president on Tuesday, becoming the first current or former statewide elected official in the US to back the real estate mogul for the White House.

The former vice-presidential candidate announced her endorsement of the Republican frontrunner at a much ballyhooed event which took place inside a heated barn on the Iowa State University campus.

Appearing on stage, Trump recited his poll numbers and gloried in his support among Republican voters for 25 minutes, before introducing “an incredible person, with an incredible husband and an incredible family”: Sarah Palin.

“Media heads are spinning,” Palin proclaimed when she took the stage. “This is gonna be. So. Much. Fun.”

In a 20-minute speech, Palin praised Trump and expressed her desire to “Make America Great Again”, using the opportunity to go on a rambling and confused attack on both parties. She condemned Barack Obama’s foreign policy and the Iran deal, and went on to say that under the current administration, “we kowtow and apologize and then bend over and say ‘thank you,enemy’.” Instead, Palin said we should “let our warriors do their job and go kick Isis’s ass.” She also attacked Obama for his 2008 “hopey changy stuff.”

The erstwhile governor of Alaska also went after her own party, accusing establishment Republicans of “wearing political correctness like a suicide vest” and said that in Washington, politicians “get high off of opium, off other people’s money.” Palin also bemoaned “exploding budgets and the crony capitalists to be able to suck off them.”

Palin also managed to slip in a reference to her traditional conservative catchphrases: “We’re not gonna chill – in fact, we’re gonna drill, baby, drill.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump said in a statement he was “greatly honored” to receive Palin’s endorsement. “She is a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support,” Trump said. The Republican presidential candidate also described her endorsement “as amongst the most sought after and influential amongst Republicans”.

But the importance of the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee’s endorsement, lies far more in her celebrity than in the elected office she once held.

Palin’s emergence at the junction of politics, celebrity and conservative populism prefigured the rise of Trump. As John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee in 2008, Palin become a political superstar almost overnight. Her populist, folksy rhetoric made her beloved on the right while her lack of policy knowledge appalled many inside the Beltway.

After McCain’s loss, Palin, who memorably went “rogue” by the end of the general election, soon resigned her position as governor and launched herself into media celebrity. She booked a well-paying gig as a Fox News pundit, wrote two bestselling books and starred in her own reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, on TLC.

An eclectic crowd lined up for hours on a cold and snowy Iowa day for the chance to file their way into the building, which had its dirt floor partially covered and signs warning attendees that “you are assuming the inherent risk of participating in this domesticated animal activity”.

Trump received a mixed reception from the crowd of mostly college students. His speech was briefly interrupted by more than two dozen protesters who shouted “a vote for Trump is a vote for hate” repeatedly, before being escorted out.

Will Smith, a student from Fort Dodge, is not a Trump supporter but came to the event because he thought it would be interesting and didn’t have too much homework. 

But other students were enthusiastic about Trump and Palin. Zach, an out-of-state student at Iowa State who declined to give his last name was enthusiastic about both Trump and Palin. His biggest concern was “global issues” and thought that both Republicans were smart and “strong on foreign policy”.

There were more run-of-the-mill Trump supporters at the rally. Roger Kingsbury, 63, of Ames had worked for 43 years at 3M and is facing retirement. He was worried about a dramatic increase in his healthcare costs because of Obamacare and said Trump would be the one candidate who could “restore the middle class.”

Trump was also joined at the rally by Aissa Wayne, a daughter of Hollywood star John Wayne by his third wife Pilar who was a Peruvian immigrant. She compared Trump to her father, saying both were “strong leaders”. She had previously announced her backing of the Republican frontrunner’s candidacy earlier in the day in an event at the John Wayne Museum in Winterset, Iowa.

Palin’s relationship with Trump goes back to 2011 when the two shared a slice of pizza at a Times Square pizzeria. Both were then publicly flirting with a presidential bid but neither Palin nor Trump eventually threw their hat in the ring.

Trump has often praised Palin in public, and in July he suggested she would have a role in a potential Trump administration, telling an interviewer: “She really is somebody who knows what’s happening and she’s a special person. She’s really a special person and I think people know that.”

Palin has a long track record of endorsing in Republican primaries. In 2012, her support proved crucial for Ted Cruz in a surprise victory in his Senate primary. Cruz later said her endorsement had been “a game-changer” and was “key” to his victory. Palin previously helped a number of longshot Republican candidates win Senate primaries in 2010. Her endorsement of attorney Joe Miller in the 2010 GOP primary for Senate in her native Alaska helped Miller topple incumbent Lisa Murkowski in that race. (However, Murkowski eventually won re-election as a write-in candidate in the general election.)

Palin also helped longtime Republican activist Christine O’Donnell beat incumbent congressman Mike Castle in a Senate primary in Delaware that year.  

It is unclear whether Palin’s endorsement will carry much weight in the Iowa caucuses. In many ways she has become a political has-been. In her last major political appearance in the state, in January last year, Palin gave a rambling, disjointed address to a presidential cattle call organized by Iowa congressman Steve King.

But Palin still attracts ardent support among many conservatives. A2014 poll of Iowa found that she was viewed favorably by 82% of Iowa voters who described themselves as “very conservative”.

Republican consultant Rick Wilson, a frequent Trump skeptic, said that her endorsement would be meaningless and that it was already “baked in the cake”. But regardless of its political effect, the media sensation surrounding her endorsement is likely to keep Trump dominating the airwaves for days to come.

On Twitter, Trump’s rival for the nomination Ted Cruz wrote: “I love @SarahPalinUSA Without her support, I wouldn’t be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan.”

But a spokesman for Cruz took a more aggressive line on Monday night, saying the endorsement would “be a blow to Sarah Palin because Sarah Palin has been a champion for the conservative cause, and if she was going to endorse Donald Trump, sadly, she would be endorsing someone who’s held progressive views all their life on the sanctity of life, on marriage, on partial-birth abortion”.

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