Saying she is ready to "stump for Trump," former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Tuesday endorsed the billionaire front-runner for the Republican nomination at a rally in Ames, Iowa.
Palin told the crowd that she endorsed Donald Trump "over some friends, whom I've endorsed" in other elections, because she believes Trump "has a track record as a master of the art of the deal."
Palin's endorsement comes just two weeks before Iowa voters will cast the first official ballots of the 2016 election season. Polling in the state shows Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in a see-saw battle for the lead. In the RealClear Politics polling average, Trump holds a slim 1.1 percentage point advantage.
In a blog post early Tuesday, Palin's daughter, Bristol, wrote that she hoped her mother would endorse Trump, and accused Cruz of "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 Palin endorsement, coming a day after Trump earned plaudits from Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., has some political observers wondering if the momentum in the race is shifting.
Senior Republican Strategist Shaun Kenney told AMI Newswire that the Palin endorsement makes a big difference "if you are a Ted Cruz supporter."
"It confirms the energy and momentum in the race has already shifted - past tense - to Trump," Kenney said. "It also confirms the suspicions of the establishment that Trump could very well win this thing. He's out-Cruzing Cruz, and he's disrupting the system. Palin built a career out of exactly the same thing."
Senior Democratic strategist Paul Goldman had a very different take, telling AMI Newswire that "it's a pretty retro endorsement."
"She's yesterday's news," Goldman said. "Historically, for guys like Trump, running against the establishment, don't help themselves with endorsements.
"Maybe [Palin] is different," he added. "Maybe he thinks it will help him with the tea party, which is strong for Cruz."
Goldman also said the endorsement shows another side of Trump's personality. "It shows he's a business guy looking to seal a deal; not a true populist, who wouldn't seek endorsements from politicians."
University of Richmond political scientist Dan Palazzolo told AMI Newswire the Palin endorsement only makes a difference if she hits the campaign trail with him.
"Individual endorsements do not typically move voters by themselves," Palazzolo said. "If Sarah Palin begins to campaign with Trump and works on his behalf, that could have a marginal effect on voter turnout."
According to a press release from the Trump campaign, Palin is scheduled to appear with Trump at rallies in Norwalk, Iowa and Tulsa, Oklahoma on Wednesday.