Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin threw her support behind Donald Trump in his race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, making the two eclectic and polarizing GOP figures official political bedfellows some two weeks before the primary elections begin.
"Are you ready for the leader to make America great again?" Palin said Tuesday at a Trump rally at Iowa State University. "Are you ready to stump for Trump? I'm here to support the next president of the United States - Donald Trump."
"He is beholden to no one but we the people. How refreshing? He is perfectly positioned to let you make America great again. Are you ready for that Iowa? No more pussyfootin' around. Our troops deserve the best, you deserve the best. ... Are you ready for a commander-in-chief who will let our warriors do their job and kick ISIS' ass," she asked the crowd to thunderous applause.
Palin also went on the attack against the Republican party for the criticism Trump has faced over some of his controversial comments and actions.
"Look at what's happening today: our own GOP machine, the establishment, they who would assemble the political landscape, they're attacking their own front runner," she said in Ames, Iowa. "Would the left ever, would the DNC [Democratic National Committee] ever come after the front-runner and her supporters? No, because they don't eat their own. They don't self-destruct."
"What the heck would the establishment know about conservatism?" Palin added. "He's got the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about and debated on his sleeve."
Trump reveled in the glow of Palin's endorsement, considering her support of U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) during his 2012 senatorial run. Cruz has previously said that he is in the upper chamber courtesy of Palin's help and support.
"This is a woman that, from Day 1, I said, 'If I ever do this, I have to get her support,'" Trump said of Palin, who will be campaigning with him throughout Iowa on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Cruz, who said he will remain a "big, big fan" of Palin regardless of who she endorsed, blasted the idea of the politician-turned political pundit backing Trump, saying she would essentially be going against her principles.
"I think it'd be a blow to Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin has been a champion for 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," Rick Tyler said Tuesday afternoon.
And some Republicans say the endorsement will end up being a black mark for Trump during his presidential run.
"It's just classless," a former senior adviser to John McCain, who tapped Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate. "It's undermining to a key Trump message which is one of competency. What Trump has said is that he's going to hire the very best people and bring in men of Carl Icahn's ilk ... and he's appearing with someone who's viewed as one of America's most astounding morons."
The Democratic National Committee also took aim at the endorsement, citing Palin's "failed" run with McCain in 2008.
"Even with a record number of candidates and internal calls to become more inclusive as a party, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin remain two of the GOP's most influential leaders," DNC spokesman Mark Paustenbach said via statement. "Their divisive rhetoric is now peddled by everyone from Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio. Americans deserve better than what Trump and Palin have to offer, but it seems like the other Republican candidates would rather follow in their footsteps."
But some Evangelical leaders say the endorsement might be exactly what is needed to push Trump ahead of Cruz in the Iowa primary.
"Palin's brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump tower," said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told the New York Times. "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. 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."
Meanwhile, earlier today Iowa governor Terry Branstad took a hit at Cruz, saying he hopes the senator loses the state, in part, because of his views on renewable energy and attempts to take down the federal ethanol regulations. Cruz is neck-and-neck with Trump in the polls for the February 1 Iowa primary election, with about two to three points between them, according to Politico.
"Ted Cruz is ahead right now. What we're trying to do is educate the people in the state of Iowa," Branstad said at the Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona, Iowa on Tuesday. "He is the biggest opponent of renewable fuels. He actually introduced a bill in 2013 to immediately eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standard."
"He's heavily financed by Big Oil," he added. "I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him."