Sarah Palin Endorses Donald Trump, Heating Up the Battle for Evangelical Voters in Iowa

Sarah Palin at an event in Des Moines last year. (Credit: Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)
Sarah Palin at an event in Des Moines last year. (Credit: Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential nominee who became a Tea Party sensation and a favorite of grass-roots conservatives, will endorse Donald J. Trump in Iowa on Tuesday, officials with his campaign confirmed. The endorsement provides Mr. Trump with a potentially significant boost just 13 days before the state’s caucuses.

“I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president,” Ms. Palin said in a statement provided by his campaign.

Her support is the highest-profile backing for a Republican contender so far.

“I am greatly honored to receive Sarah’s endorsement,” Mr. Trump said in a statement trumpeting Mrs. Palin’s decision. “She is a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support.”

In Iowa, where Ms. Palin spent years developing support, the endorsement could be especially helpful.

“Over the years Palin has actually cultivated a number of relationships in Iowa,” said Craig Robinson, the former executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa and publisher of the website The Iowa Republican. “There are the Tea Party activists who still think she’s great and a breath of fresh air, but she also did a good job of courting Republican donors in the state,” he added.

Other conservatives said that Ms. Palin serves as a particularly effective shield against Senator Ted Cruz, who is battling Mr. Trump for the lead in Iowa polls by courting the state’s evangelical voters.

“Palin’s brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump tower,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

“Endorsements alone don’t guarantee victory, but Palin’s embrace of Trump may turn the fight over the evangelical vote into a war for the soul of the party,” he said.

Mrs. Palin, who is to appear alongside Mr. Trump at a rally on the Iowa State University campus in Ames late Tuesday afternoon, could amplify the news media-circus aspects of Mr. Trump’s candidacy: Like him, she is a reality-TV star accustomed to playing to the cameras and often accused of emphasizing flash over substance.

What’s more, while Mr. Trump has already shown the ability to garner wall-to-wall cable-news coverage, Mrs. Palin’s active involvement in his campaign could help him deprive Mr. Cruz of vital attention in the homestretch to the Feb. 1 caucuses.

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SOURCE: MAGGIE HABERMAN 
The New York Times