Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is endorsing Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump Tuesday at an Iowa campaign stop, a source familiar with the plans told CNN.
“I am greatly honored to receive Sarah’s endorsement. She is a friend, and a high quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support,” Trump said in a statement.
The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate said she was “proud to endorse” Trump.
The official endorsement will come Tuesday night at a rally in Ames, Iowa, followed by a joint appearance on Wednesday morning in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The backing could prove pivotal for Trump in Iowa, where he’s deadlocked with Ted Cruz in a battle to win the February 1 caucuses traditionally dominated by conservative voters. Palin, a tea party favorite since 2008, has spoken warmly of Cruz in the past and her backing of Trump could blunt the Texas senator’s momentum in the final weeks before voting.
The news of the endorsement was first reported by The New York Times.
The businessman stoked speculation for much of the day, after an invite sent around late Monday plugged a special guest who would join him in Iowa. At a press conference on Tuesday, Trump declined to confirm rumors of the Palin endorsement.
“I’m a big fan of Sarah Palin,” Trump responded when asked about it by reporters.
In September, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Palin how she would feel about possibly serving in a Trump administration.
“I think a lot about the Department of Energy, because energy is my baby, oil and gas and minerals, those things that God has dumped on this part of the earth for mankind’s use, instead of relying on unfriendly foreign nations for us to import their resources,” she said, adding that her ultimate aim would to get rid of the agency.
“If I were head of that, I would get rid of it and I would let the states start having more control over the lands that are within their boundaries and the people who are affected by the developments within their space,” she said. “So, you know, if I were in charge of that, it would be a short-term job. But it would be really great to have someone who knows energy and is pro-responsible development to be in charge.”
Cruz brushed off rumors of the Palin endorsement earlier on Tuesday, which marks a potential blow to his momentum in Iowa.
“Regardless of what Sarah decides to do in 2016, I will always remain a big, big fan,” he said.
His campaign also claimed that a Palin endorsement of Trump would backfire on her.
“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,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”
Palin responded to the interview Tuesday, linking to a blog post by her daughter Bristol in a tweet.
“Is THIS Why People Don’t like Cruz?” the 2008 vice presidential candidate tweeted.
In her blog post, Bristol Palin slammed Tyler for suggesting the former Alaska governor would somehow hurt herself by picking Trump over Cruz.
“After hearing what Cruz is now saying about my mom, in a negative knee-jerk reaction, makes me hope my mom does endorse Trump,” Bristol wrote. “Cruz’s flip-flop, turning against my mom who’s done nothing but support and help him when others sure didn’t, shows he’s a typical politician. How rude to that he’s setting up a false narrative about her!”
The Texas senator didn’t mention the speculation about an endorsement for Trump in a tweet Tuesday afternoon, instead saying he will “always be a big fan” of Palin regardless of her role in the 2016 campaign.
“I love @SarahPalinUSA Without her support, I wouldn’t be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan,” he said.
Cruz has had a long, contentious history with Sen. John McCain, who ran with Palin in 2008. McCain has called Cruz a member of the “wacko bird” senators and has fueled the argument for those who’ve questioned whether the Texas senator would even be eligible to serve as president because he was born in Canada.
However, Trump’s also spent significant time this cycle trashing the Arizona senator, most visibly this summer when he said that the former prisoner of war was “not a war hero.”
Aside from similar conservative populist rhetoric which has inspired fierce loyalty among their working-class supporters, Trump and Palin also have something else in common: Michael Glassner. Glassner worked on Palin’s failed 2008 vice presidential bid and Trump hired him as his political director last July.