Former reality TV star and one-time Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, came to Ames, Iowa Tuesday to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States. Standing alongside Trump, Palin asked the crowd “Are you ready to make America great again? Are you ready to stump for Trump? I’m here to support the next president of the United States – Donald Trump.”
Palin’s endorsement came on the same day her son Track was arrested at her home in Wasilla, Alaska on a domestic violence charge involving an assault rifle. His girlfriend called police after a fight where he punched her in the face, saying she feared he was going to shoot himself. Police suggested alcohol might have been a factor.
The Palin endorsement may make things worse for Ted Cruz in Iowa in what is already a bad week for the senator. Cruz had taken the lead over Trump in Iowa at the end of last year. Trump is a fierce competitor and did not want to lose a single state, so he began attacking Cruz. The strategy appears to be working. Trump is now leading Cruz in Iowa by two points according to the RealClear Politics poll average. Palin’s endorsement is seen to be an insurance policy.
To make matters worse for Cruz, Iowa’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, told the press Tuesday he hopes Ted Cruz will be defeated in Iowa. This was a blow for Cruz. He must win the Iowa caucuses to have a chance of stopping Trump from getting the nomination.
Cruz had sought Palin’s endorsement. Many pundits were positive he would get it. Instead, Palin showed up in Iowa enthusiastically endorsing Trump. This surprised some pundits given the fact Trump questioned the war record of John McCain, who picked Palin to be his running mate. Some are calling her a fair weather friend. Others characterize it as being opportunistic. She knows Trump draws more media and bigger crowds than Cruz.
“I am greatly honored to receive Sarah’s endorsement,” Trump said. “She is a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support.” Palin’s endorsement fueled speculation that she might be Trump’s running mate. Earlier in the campaign, Trump tossed her name out as a person he was looking at for the VP job. Wednesday morning, however, Trump seemed to walk that back, telling NBC that he did not think Palin wanted to run for vice-president again. But, he said, there would certainly be a role for her in his administration.
Palin’s endorsement both helps and hurts Trump. She has developed relationships in Iowa that could be helpful to his campaign. Craig Robinson, the former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa told the NY Times that the Tea Party activists still think she’s great and a breath of fresh air. He added that she also did a good job courting Republican donors in the state. Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition said “Palin’s brand among evangelicals is as golden as the faucets in Trump tower.”
On the other side, in states where the Tea Party is not as strong, Palin could be a liability. She has a proclivity of saying things that turn Independent voters and moderate Republicans off. She is seen as a glory hog. She constantly tried to upstage Senator McCain in joint appearances during the 2008 campaign. If she tries that with Trump, he may not be as polite as McCain. Palin is also a publicity hound, and it is likely she will take away some of the media coverage that has propelled Trump to the top.
We can expect SNL and other comedians to have a field day over this endorsement. It may herald the return of Tina Fey to Saturday night television. And, it may insure that Trump wins in Iowa. Stay tuned.