Trump lands Palin endorsement
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Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Pruitt spent K flying aides to Australia to prep for later-canceled visit: report Rosenstein told Trump he is not a target of Mueller probe: report MORE has scored his highest-profile endorsement yet in former vice presidential nominee and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin. 

“I am here because I know, like you, it is now or never. I am in it to win it because we believe in America," Palin said to supporters as she took the stage. 

"Only one candidate’s record of success shows he is the master of the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one,” she said, referring to Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” 

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She framed Trump's candidacy as a direct rebuke of the GOP establishment, bashing them for "eating their own" by attacking the party's front-runner. 

“He’s going rogue left and right, that’s why he’s been doing so well. He’s been able to tear the veil off the idea of the system and the system really works," she said. 

"He being the only one who has the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about on his sleeve where the rest of the establishment candidates, they wanted to duck and hide." 

Palin noted that she's endorsed other GOP presidential hopefuls during their past campaigns, but only had a brief word of praise for Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Senate committee sets Monday vote even as Pompeo appears to lack support Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE, calling his libertarian streak "healthy." Absent from that praise--Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA DOJ denies reports judicial nominee once called illegal immigrants 'maggots' MORE, Trump's biggest rival, whom Palin endorsed for his senate bid in 2012.

The backing from the former Alaska governor puts a major figure of the conservative movement, who is also looked upon favorably by evangelicals, into Trump’s corner with less than two weeks before the start of voting in Iowa.  

"Oh, I think it’s a big deal,” Ana Navarro, who was a national surrogate for the McCain 2008 campaign and is a Jeb Bush supporter, said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” 

“Look, you know, the attack on the Donald Trump that Ted Cruz has been honing on is that he’s got New York values. If anybody that does not represent New York values in the Republican party its certainly Sarah Palin. She is the 'Mama Grizzly,' she is all about Alaska, outdoors, pro-life, pro-guns, I think this is very good for Sarah Palin whose star had been diminishing and who is now going to be all over the press, and I think this is very good for Donald Trump." 

Trump is locked in a battle with Cruz for the polling lead in Iowa, so his team hopes that the Palin endorsement will boost his chances at shoring up evangelical and Tea Party support over the Texas senator.   

Nicolle Wallace, an adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008 and now an MSNBC political analyst, told Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” Tuesday that Palin’s endorsement “could tip the scales” in Trump’s favor and aid his tight clash with Ted Cruz.  

“The voter that is influenced by Sarah Palin is the very last voter who’s still on the fence perhaps between Cruz and his arch-rival now Trump,” she said. 

Palin’s endorsement was part of a one-two punch landed on the Cruz campaign Tuesday, adding to Iowa Republican Terry Branstad’s warning to Iowa voters not to back Trump.

Branstad panned Cruz as “heavily financed by Big Oil” and said “it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him,” according to the Des Moines Register.  

“So we think once Iowans realize that fact, they might find other things attractive but he could be very damaging to our state,” he added.  

Trump leads Cruz by just 1 percentage point in the state, according to the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, with both enjoying significant support from those constituencies. 

But Trump has faced criticism for both his conservative and religious chops despite that support. 

During a Monday speech at Liberty University, he referred to a Bible passage as being from “Two Corinthians,” instead of “Second Corinthians” — a mistake the media continually replayed throughout the remainder of the day. 

But while many praised the endorsement as important, Matt Strawn, a former Iowa GOP chairman who has not endorsed a candidate, told The Hill he doesn’t believe Palin has enough clout in the state to make a meaningful difference in the caucus results. 

“Attention getting? Of course,” he said by email. “Something that creates momentum for Trump in Iowa? Don’t see it.”  

The appearance also brought to an end a day full of speculation stoked by a cryptic Trump Facebook post over the weekend teasing “a major announcement and a very special guest in attendance” atTuesday night’s rally.

That prompted reporters to search flight records; they found a flight traveling from Alaska to Iowa and then Oklahoma, mirroring the next two days of Trump’s campaign travel, leaving many to believe Palin was that special guest.   

Cable news outlets spent much of Tuesday hypothesizing whether Palin would endorse Trump and about what it could mean for his campaign. The pairing of the bombastic billionaire and the former Wasilla mayor, who dominated headlines during the 2008 race, is sure to a cable producer’s dream come true, especially if she follows up the endorsement by hitting the stump for Trump.   

Palin acknowledged that as much at the Trump rally. “Media heads are spinning, this is going to be so much fun.” 

Trump declined to tip his hand during a campaign stop at Iowa’s John Wayne Birthplace Museum when a reporter asked him point-blank about Palin. 

“I’m a big fan of Sarah Palin, but I am not saying who it is,” he said.  

Palin herself contributed to the intrigue when she tweeted out a blog post by her daughter Bristol, who said she hopes her mother “endorses Donald Trump today for president” after what she saw as criticism from the Cruz camp of her mother.   

Palin has vocally supported Trump for months, telling CNN in September she’d be interested in serving as his Energy secretary after he praised her as the type of person he’d want in his Cabinet. 

And Palin has ties to Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, whom she endorsed during Pierson’s failed 2014 primary challenge to House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas). 

Cruz’s team got ahead of the speculation Tuesday morning when CNN’s “New Day” brought up the issue to ask if the endorsement would be a blow to Cruz’s campaign. 

“I think it would be a blow to Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin has been a champion of the conservative cause and if she was going to endorse Donald Trump, sadly she would be endorsing someone who’s held progressive views all their life on the sanctity of life, on marriage, on partial-birth abortion, he supported [the] TARP bailout — it goes on and on and on,” Cruz communications director Rick Tyler said.   

“Donald Trump claims he’s changed all those views. But I think if it was Sarah Palin, let me just say I would be deeply disappointed.”  

After Bristol Palin’s blog post chiding those remarks, Cruz took to Twitter to soften his stance.  

“I love [Sarah Palin],” Cruz tweeted, using her Twitter username in place of her name. “Without her support, I wouldn’t be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan.” 

Still, a Trump campaign statement Tuesday afternoon confirming the endorsement hit at Cruz by including a quote from his introduction of her during the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, a year after she endorsed his Senate bid: “She can pick winners.”