WASHINGTON/WINTERSET, IOWA – Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee who flirted with her own White House run and emerged as a conservative icon, endorsed billionaire businessman Donald Trump for president on Tuesday.
The coveted endorsement for the current Republican front-runner comes less than two weeks before votes are cast in Iowa, the debut contest in the presidential primary race.
“I am proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for President of the United States of America,” Palin, the former governor of Alaska, said in a statement distributed by the Trump campaign.
It was already expected that Palin, who has played the role of political powerbroker since her unsuccessful vice presidential bid, would appear alongside Trump at a campaign rally Tuesday in Ames, Iowa.
Palin’s Trump nod is seen as a snub to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, who is neck and neck with Trump in Iowa and running second to him nationally.
Trump said in the statement he was “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.”
Cruz, perhaps getting out front of the pending endorsement, tweeted his appreciation for Palin on Tuesday.
“Without her support, I wouldn’t be in the Senate,” he wrote.
“Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan.”
Trump is meanwhile kicking off a swing through Iowa at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, where he received an endorsement from the film actor’s daughter.
The endorsement was announced Tuesday in front of a life-size, rifle-toting model of the actor in full cowboy gear.
Aissa Wayne says the country needs a strong and courageous leader like her father. She says John Wayne would offer his endorsement if he were still alive.
Trump says he was a big fan of Wayne and that the actor represented strength and power, which the American people are looking for.
Trump says, “We have exactly the opposite from John Wayne right now in this country.”