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How Sarah Palin Compounds the Donald Trump Effect

4 minute read

Say what you will about her, but Sarah Palin always did have great political timing.

Palin’s specialty is upending the news cycle, or “kinda stirring things up a little,” as she put it in Iowa on Tuesday. Whether it was her surprise selection as the 2008 vice presidential nominee, her abrupt 2009 resignation as governor of Alaska, her declaration that Obamacare had “death panels”—which led to the summer of discontent—or her endorsement of Donald Trump for President on Tuesday, Palin has proven adept at hijacking, irking and outraging the “lamestream media,” as she calls them.

If there is one politician in the world that Trump, who has thus far defied classification, is most alike, it is Palin. The two harness the same anger that has been brewing in a large swath of the Republican base for years.

That spitting resentment was apparent on Tuesday. “No more pussyfooting around. … Are you ready for the leader to make America great again?” she asked a roaring crowd at Iowa State University, with Trump standing next to her grinning like the Cheshire cat. “Are you ready to stump for Trump? I’m here to support the next president of the United States—Donald Trump.”

Some will say Palin won’t help Trump much. She has, after all, faded from the public eye in recent years as her stunts grew less political and more profitable. She’s also a polarizing figure whom many in the GOP disdain. Not to mention her family messes: her daughter’s two children out of wedlock, bar brawls in Alaska and just Monday her son Track was reportedly arrested for domestic violence.

But the naysayers misunderestimate Palin’s unique appeal—and that of her chosen heir, Trump. In a normal election year, Donald Trump’s three marriages and his casinos would discount him amongst the social conservative, largely evangelical Iowa Republican primary electorate. But this is a base that isn’t looking for a peacetime nominee. They’re looking for a wartime nominee and the enemy is Washington.

If battle with the establishment is your goal, there is no greater ally than Palin, who has made a very lucrative career out of being the bane of the Grand Old Party’s existence. Just ask Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who, Trump noted in the news release announcing Palin’s endorsement, once said that he “would not be in the United States Senate were it not for Gov. Sarah Palin. … She can pick winners.”

Cruz is vying for the anti-establishment mantle and in recent weeks overtook Trump in Iowa polls. Palin’s endorsement comes the same day that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, once an establishment man who got elected, in part, with Palin’s help, said he hopes Cruz is defeated in Iowa.

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Palin’s endorsement could help reassure conservatives wavering over Trump’s somewhat liberal record and, as Cruz put it in the last debate, his “New York values.” And, as Palin herself noted, she brings even more heightened attention, media coverage and notoriety to Trump’s campaign, which has hardly been lacking for any of those things. Her campaign events with Trump will vastly overshadow those of any other candidate for the rest of the week.

“Mr. Trump, you’re right. Look back in the press box. Heads are spinning. Media heads are spinning,” Palin said with glee, circling her right index finger around. “This is going to be so much fun.”

Fun is probably not the word much of the Republican Party, including rival Cruz, might use.

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