Republican front-runner Donald Trump picked up Tuesday what has been called the most significant endorsement of this White House race yet: former vice-president nominee Sarah Palin’s.
“Are you ready for a commander in chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS ass?” Palin said at a political rally in Iowa, with a beaming Trump by her side.
“Ready for someone who will secure our borders, to secure our jobs, and to secure our homes? 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, Trump supporters have said, would help him close the credibility gap with those in the Republican party who still question his conservative credentials.
Among them is Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest rival who has sought to portray the front-runner as a life-long friend and supporter of Democrats, and not conservative enough.
Trump leads Cruz nationally 34.5% to 19.3%, but is in a close fight with him in Iowa — 27.8% to 26.7%. But these numbers have been on a seesaw, putting Cruz ahead at times.
Palin comes from the same extreme right wing that helped Cruz win his senate race in 2012 and, it is hoped by Trump supporters, will bring them around the front-runner.
But Palin has been out of office and electoral politics for a long time, and some pundits doubt if she is still as effective as she once was and retains her clout with the ultra conservatives.
Palin debuted in national politics in 2008 when then Republican nominee for the White House John McCain announced her as his running mate, a move he would regret later.
Palin was a little known first-time Alaska governor then. But took to the role of a running mate with alacrity, and was soon drawing more crowds than McCain.
“I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska,” Palin would say, and spoke like one, with little or no inclination to delve into policy talk that politicians tend to obsess about.
That, as it turned out, was not out of choice. Palin had little grasp of policy, specially foreign policy, and completely unravelled in media interviews.
After the 2008 election, Palin emerged as a strong right-wing Tea Party favourite, an ultra conservative celebrity who could swing elections at all levels, from states to federal.
Announcing the endorsement, the Trump campaign said Palin had “helped launch the careers of several key future leaders of the Republican Party and conservative movement”.
Including, the statement added, that of Cruz. It quoted him as once saying he “would not be in the United States Senate were it not for Gov. Sarah Palin. ... She can pick winners”.
Trump would be hoping Cruz is right about Palin.