Major endorsement can make all the difference in Iowa - for better or for worse...
Published 21/01/2016 | 02:30
So Sarah Palin has endorsed her fellow reality television star Donald Trump for president.
It may not be a sign of the apocalypse, but the announcement is certain to keep the media and pundits busy for at least 24 hours.
At the very least, that helps Trump stay ahead in his Red Queen's race - that is, his attempt to maintain his domination of political news, which makes it harder for any other candidate to move up the polls.
It's even possible that a handful of Iowa Tea Party voters who have been wavering between Trump and Ted Cruz could be swayed by the Sage of Wasilla. And who knows? In a very close election, just a few voters could make all the difference: Trump and Cruz are in a dead heat in Iowa, according to HuffPollster's current estimate.
On the other hand, there's no suggestion from polling that Palin's endorsement is the gold standard. And although endorsements may be quite important in aggregate, the support of any single figure usually makes little difference. Endorsements bring resources, whether it's publicity or money or volunteer hours. Palin will help with publicity for one day, but probably not much more than that.
It's even possible, as political scientist Brendan Nyhan suggests, that Palin could push undecided party actors farther away from Trump. After all, if the nomination really does come down to Trump against Cruz, it's going to be a tough choice for many party elites, especially those who have worked with Cruz and can't stand him. Knowing that going with the Texas senator will at least have the benefit of annoying Palin might help get them over that hump.
In any case, having Trump out on the hustings praising Palin will remind many party actors of the weakness of his attachment to the party and of how little they can trust him either as their nominee or as president.
Mostly, however, this is just a reminder of John McCain's irresponsibility in selecting Palin as his running mate without bothering to find out who she was. She now is repaying the 2012 Republican nominee by endorsing the man who attacked his unimpeachable heroism to climb to the top of the polls.
Whatever happens next, Republicans should never forgive him for that.
Some feel Trump, whose positions on issues like gun control and abortion rights have shifted over the years, isn't conservative enough.
In a statement yesterday, he praised Palin as "a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for."
But Ms Palin, who was expected to campaign alongside her new political ally yesterday, did not show up at an Iowa rally. A campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about why she was not in attendance.
Mr Trump was also endorsed by the daughter of John Wayne when he appeared in Winterset, Iowa, the late actor's birthplace. Aissa Wayne said her father would have backed Mr Trump, saying the businessman was "strong like John Wayne".
Republican consultant Kevin Madden said Palin's support could help shield Trump from charges that his past positions make him too liberal to be the party's nominee.
But some rally-goers at Trump's event said they weren't sure whether Palin's support would help Trump win over voters. Several referenced what they saw as her poor performance as a vice presidential candidate.
"I don't think she's really credible anymore," said Bruce Dodge (66), a retiree.