In what is viewed by analysts as a blow to the campaign of Senator Ted Cruz, former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Tuesday announced she is endorsing Donald Trump for president.
“I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president of the United States of America,” Palin said in a statement from the Trump campaign, quoted by USA Today. In the statement, Trump said he is "greatly honored" to receive Palin's backing.
"She is a friend, and a high quality person whom I have great respect for," said the billionaire. "I am proud to have her support.”
The endorsement comes after Trump said on Twitter earlier in the week he'd be making a "big announcement" on Tuesday in Ames, Iowa. A Facebook post from Trump on Sunday indicated he would have "a very special guest in attendance."
Ahead of the event, speculation focused on Palin, the 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, as Trump's "very special guest", noted USA Today.
Despite the speculations that Palin’s endorsement of Trump would damage Cruz’s campaign, one of Cruz’s advisers pre-emptively sought to dismiss the possible endorsement as damaging to Palin's brand, according to the newspaper.
"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 was quoted as having said on CNN.
USA Today noted that the support of Palin, who emerged as a leading voice of the Tea Party movement following the 2008 presidential election, could aid Trump as he finds himself in a close battle with Cruz in the February 1 Iowa caucuses.
Cruz and Trump traded blows in last week’s Republican presidential debate, after having largely refrained from direct confrontations in the race until now.
Trump took aim at Cruz, saying he might not be eligible to run for office because he was born in Canada, even though Cruz's parents were both American citizens. When asked why he was raising the issue now, Trump admitted that he's now going after the senator because he's gaining in the polls.
Cruz rebuffed the aspersions on his eligibility, noting, "back in September, my friend Donald said he had his lawyers look at this in every which way. There was nothing to this birther issue."
"Since September, the Constitution hasn't changed. But the poll numbers have," quipped Cruz, to the laughter of the audience.