Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, left, endorses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally at the Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, on Jan. 19, 2016.
Mary Altaffer—AP
January 20, 2016 4:17 PM EST

Donald Trump looked to capitalize Wednesday on the Tea Party credentials of his newest supporter Sarah Palin, as both he and rival Ted Cruz—neither of them beloved or even liked by GOP leaders—sought to paint the other as creatures of the party establishment.

The verbal jockeying came a day after Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, endorsed Trump, promising him—and denying Cruz—a flurry of attention a couple weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Trump, wasting little time, used a morning TV appearance to assure Palin’s conservative supporters that she could play a role in his administration if elected.

“I haven’t discussed anything with her about what she’d do, but she’s somebody I really like and I respect, and certainly she could play a position if she wanted to,” Trump said on the Today show.

Palin later appeared alongside Trump at a rally in Tulsa, Okla., where she defended the brash businessman turned presidential front-runner against what she called a nefarious “GOP machine.”

“They don’t really care who wins elections,” Palin said. “Believe me on this, I’ve kind of been there and I’ve seen how they treat those who go rogue like Mr. Trump does in order to do the right thing.

“Even today, the GOP machine—they’re attacking their own front-runner and his base of dynamic, diverse, very patriotic supporters,” Palin added. “They’re attacking you because they can’t afford for the status quo to go, otherwise the gravy train, it stops and they can’t keep slurping from it.”

Cruz, meanwhile, made several campaign stops in New Hampshire, including one hosted by former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, now a resident of New Hampshire, who has said he will endorse a candidate next week, the Wall Street Journal reports. Speaking to BuzzFeed, Cruz warned of a Republican “cartel” that was starting to move in Trump’s direction.

“The cartel exists to make deals and to pick winners and losers through cronyism and corporate welfare,” Cruz said. “And so it’s no surprise that more and more of the establishment is beginning to support Donald Trump. Because Donald has promised to make deals and to continue the cronyism and corporate welfare of Washington. That’s what the cartel does. They make deals with Democrats.”

Trump, who is neck-and-neck with Cruz in Iowa even as he continues to lead polls nationally and in New Hampshire, levied the greatest insult for a Republican primary, saying Cruz’s failure to disclose loans used during his 2012 Senate campaign made him “worse” than Hillary Clinton.

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