Washington: Sarah Palin, the conservative icon and champion of the tea party movement, endorsed Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying in a statement that she was “proud” to back Trump’s presidential bid.
“I am greatly honored to receive Sarah’s endorsement,” Trump said, in a statement first reported by The New York Times. “She is a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support.”
The endorsement is a major pick-up for Trump, who has been struggling to maintain a share of the lead in Iowa ahead of the Feb. 1 caucuses as Cruz, a darling of the tea party, has gained support and major endorsements. Palin’s pick serves a stinging blow to Cruz, who received the backing of the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate during his Senate campaign in 2012.
“I love Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is fantastic. Without her friendship and support I wouldn’t be in the Senate today,” Cruz said Tuesday, minutes before the endorsement was confirmed. “And so regardless of what Sarah decides to do in 2016 I will always remain a big, big fan of Sarah Palin’s.”
Palin, the former governor of Alaska who was John McCain’s running mate in 2008, has continued to be a popular spokeswoman for conservatives, especially socially conservative Christians, long after leaving office in her home state. She frequently offers political commentary on cable news channels, has starred in a reality television show and is regularly a featured guest at conservative conventions. Her memoir, published in 2009, sold more than two million copies and was one of the fastest-selling political books in history.
Palin’s endorsement record is mixed — but her backing of Cruz’s Senate bid was a major boost to his 2012 campaign.
Palin and Trump share a number of similarities: Both have starred in reality television shows and written best-selling books. Both have made controversial statements that have horrified the Republican establishment while further endearing conservatives to their cause. Both know how to fire up a massive rally crowd. And both ate their pizza with a knife and fork when spotted at a Times Square restaurant in 2011.
In July, Trump said in a radio interview he would “love” to have Palin in his administration “because she really is somebody who knows what’s happening and she’s a special person.” In September, Palin was appeared alongside Trump and Cruz at a Capitol Hill rally against the Obama administration’s Iran deal. In December, Palin said she had narrowed her short list to those two, while her daughter Willow Palin backed Trump.
“I’m not going to pick one right now, but what a nice problem to have if it came down to Cruz and Trump,” Palin told CNN in December. “That’s a good problem for voters to have, because we know that, as you say, they are both strong and very decisive and someone who would take the initiative. That is what we need today, and both of those candidates would fit that bill.”
The Washington Post