Donald Trump, the reality television star-turned-politician, was endorsed by Sarah Palin, the politician-turned-reality TV star, in his front-running bid to be the next Republican U.S. president, his campaign said on Tuesday.
To voters, it may seem a natural fit. Though she never made it to the White House after becoming the party’s vice presidential pick in 2008, Palin’s style, which showed a candidate could be popular by avoiding policy details in favor of plain-speaking, is seen as a precursor to Trump’s recent success.
“I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president,” Palin said in a statement provided by his campaign.
Trump said he was “greatly honored” by the endorsement, according to his campaign’s announcement. “She is a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for,” his statement said.
Palin was due to join Trump later on Tuesday at a campaign event in Ames, a city in central Iowa, the first state in the nation to vote for the Republican and Democratic parties’ nominees in two weeks.
Trump is in a tight contest with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for the support of Iowa Republicans, who lean conservative and whose evangelical Christians comprise a major voting bloc.
Palin was in her first term as governor of Alaska in 2008 when U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee in that year’s presidential election, picked her as his running mate.
She was folksy, and liked to suggest there were no fiercer fighters for conservative values than a small-town “hockey mom.” She was a former beauty-pageant winner who professed a love of hunting with guns, and thought it more important that the United States increase drilling for oil than fret about climate change.
Trump is a real estate billionaire from New York City who has taken to vigorously insulting politicians in both parties while demonizing Muslims and some Mexicans, an unusual approach in U.S. presidential politics. He has been polling as the voters’ favorite on the Republican side for months, with Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, the leading Democratic candidate.
McCain and Palin lost the 2008 election to Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but by then Palin’s transformation from a little-known politician to national celebrity was complete.
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina who last month ditched his own effort to become president and has endorsed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for the nomination said in an interview with CNN that he liked Palin.
Still, he added, “Sarah Palin can’t save Donald Trump from being crazy,” referring to some of Trump’s proclamations, such as a plan to ban Muslims from entering the country, which Graham said made Trump unelectable. Palin endorsed and stumped for GOP Presidential rival Senator Ted Cruz when he was running for the United States Senate and Trump winning her endorsement can only be viewed as a snub and setback for Cruz.
In a second setback, Iowa’s governor said it would be a “big mistake” for voters in the nation’s first presidential contest next month to choose Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination, citing the U.S. senator’s opposition to a biofuel mandate important to the state.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad said Cruz was in the pocket of “Big Oil,” and criticized the Texan’s opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires U.S. fuel to contain a minimum amount of biofuels, including ethanol.
Ethanol is a major market for Iowa corn, and the state’s voters have generally supported ethanol mandates.
Branstad said Cruz is a big opponent of renewable fuels who is “heavily financed by Big Oil.”
“Ted Cruz, who is ahead in the polls, is diametrically opposed to what we really care about, and that is growing the opportunity for renewable fuels in this country,” Branstad said.
Branstad spoke after addressing the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, where Republican front-runner Donald Trump also spoke later in the day and endorsed the Renewable Fuel Standard. Branstad’s oldest son, Eric, has worked on a political action committee that has been critical of Cruz’s ethanol stance.
The governor has said he would not endorse a candidate before the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, where Cruz leads Trump in some opinion polls.
“I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him,” Branstad said of Cruz. “I know he’s ahead in the polls, but the only poll that counts is the one they take on caucus night. And I think it could change between now and then.”