Campaign observers learned early on last year that the phrase “going too far” doesn’t really apply to Donald Trump. In July, at a forum in Iowa, the Republican presidential hopeful went after John McCain’s military service, telling a far-right audience, “I like people that weren’t captured, okay?” Many assumed Trump would have to walk that back. He didn’t.
Many party officials and McCain allies were publicly disgusted by Trump’s remarks. Sarah Palin, however, wasn’t among them.
Six months later, McCain’s former running mate, the former half-term Alaska governor, has decided Trump is the right candidate to lead the nation.
Former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will endorse Donald Trump Tuesday, NBC News has confirmed. […]Palin, who has reemerged on the political scene recently as the primary approaches, has long positioned herself as the anti-establishment candidate. Palin’s endorsement of Trump is a blow to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who is also trying to appeal to voters angry and the traditional ranks of the Republican Party.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber joked on Twitter, “Politician turned reality show star endorses reality show star turned politician.”
It’s a welcome development for Trump, especially so close to the Iowa caucuses, who has received precious few endorsements from GOP officials. Indeed, Palin is the first governor – current or former – to throw his or her support to the controversial New York developer.
Palin’s support is not completely out of the blue. The Alaska Republican said in September she’d welcome an opportunity to join a Trump cabinet if he’s elected, and Palin even suggested she’d like to be Energy Secretary. She saw it as a “short-term job” because Palin would like to eliminate the agency altogether. (No one told her this would take an act of Congress, and wouldn’t be up to the Energy Secretary.)
Trump has also said he’d “love” to have Palin in his administration’s cabinet.
The next question, of course, is whether today’s news is likely to make much of a difference in the 2016 race.
I think it’s fair to say the former governor once had a fairly prominent voice in right-wing politics, but it’s not unreasonable to think Palin’s star doesn’t shine nearly as bright as it used to. Her role as a paid Fox News contributor ended when the network decided not to renew her contract, and Palin’s paid online venture struggled soon after.
In fact, there’s little evidence of her electoral support making any difference whatsoever. Four years ago, Palin didn’t quite endorse Newt Gingrich explicitly, but she did urge Republicans – more than once – to vote for the former House Speaker in the primaries.
Palin’s unofficial support came just nine days after Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, when he hoped to build some momentum going forward. In the weeks and months that followed, Gingrich won just one additional primary – in his home state of Georgia – and didn’t come close in any other contest.
In other words, throngs of Palin backers didn’t exactly propel Gingrich towards the nomination.
Trump, however, is in far better shape than Gingrich ever was, and today’s endorsement helps reinforce his anti-establishment claims. In a close race, it probably can’t hurt.
As best as I can tell, John McCain, who’s criticized Trump for firing up “the crazies,” has not yet commented on his former running mate’s decision.