Sunday 15 December 2019

Palin coup could be a huge hit for Trump

Donald Trump getting the endorsement of Sarah Palin.
Donald Trump getting the endorsement of Sarah Palin.
Ted Cruz salutes while speaking at a campaign town hall meeting in Exeter.

David Usborne

Sarah Palin said a whole lot in the few minutes she had on stage, as if her mouth had been taped shut for the last eight years, which, of course, it hadn't been. But she started by suggesting her appearance would make "media heads spin". It was a rare understatement. It made all of Iowa spin, if not America.

By bringing Ms Palin to his rally inside a giant cattle show shed at the University of Iowa's agricultural school in Ames and accepting her endorsement, Donald Trump was banking on just that, another grab for the headlines 10 days out from caucus night, when Iowans will be the first in the nation to voice their preferences for who should be the presidential nominees for both main parties.

Her return to the spotlight is one more kick in the gut to the Republican establishment, which hardly has fond memories of Ms Palin's record as John McCain's hapless running mate in 2008. It has only just come to terms with the fact that not one of the "traditional" runners in the field now stands a ghost of winning in Iowa, where the competition has come down to Mr Trump versus Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Those stragglers, most notably Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, and the former Florida governor Jeb Bush, surely looked on in dismay. For them, and the Ohio governor John Kasich, coming second or third in the February 9 primaries in New Hampshire, where Mr Trump leads handsomely, must now become their more realistic and urgent priority.

But perhaps Mr Trump's ­Palin coup was most damaging to Mr Cruz, who in recent polls has edged just slightly ahead of Mr Trump here in Iowa. The senator, who ironically enjoyed what turned out to be a critical endorsement from Ms Palin when he ran for the US Senate in 2012, has achieved it by appealing to Tea Party voters and evangelical Christians.

As the Palin-Trump show reached its crescendo here, one man shouted: "You guys are a joke." The tycoon repeatedly called her "very special" and she hailed him as a future "commander-in-chief who will kick Isis's ass", amongst other compliments. "He is from the private sector, not a politician," she said. "Can I get a hallelujah?"

Mr Bush may concur with the heckler. He has electronic billboards all across the state with one of his more famous utterances from the trail: "Donald Trump is unhinged."

He can seem that way. In a single sentence, he went from asserting that if the victims in Paris had had guns "on their ankles" and the "bullets had gone in the other direction" the tragedy in the city would have been averted, to musing about another endorsement he won on Tuesday, from the daughter of John Wayne, Aissa Wayne.

That came even as it emerged Ms Palin's oldest child, Track Palin (26), had been arrested in a domestic violence case in which his girlfriend was afraid he would shoot himself with an AR-15 assault rifle. For all that, there is strategy in the zaniness surrounding Mr Trump.

Possibly there was no smarter move for Mr Trump than claiming Ms Palin as his own, because, whatever the elite may say of her, she remains beloved of the Tea Party.

On Monday, he courted evangelicals by appearing at Liberty University, the most Christian of all Christian campuses, in Virginia. Thus in 48 hours he had poached on both of the Cruz strongholds.

Moreover, he pulled the Palin move on a day when Mr Cruz had suffered an earlier wound, born of his refusal to do what all of his rivals have done, show support for a long-running federal initiative requiring all petrol sold in the United States to have at least a 10pc ethanol content.


Consistent with his conservative disdain for all things mandated by Washington, Mr Cruz wants it phased out, calling it a subsidy in disguise for Iowa growers of corn, from which ethanol is produced.

It was that stance that triggered a sharp denunciation of Mr Cruz from the Iowa governor Terry Branstad, himself a Republican, during a summit on renewable energy sources earlier here on Tuesday. Asked by reporters if he would therefore like to see Mr Cruz lose on caucus day, the Governor flatly said "Yes". For his part, Senator Cruz attempted to play down losing Ms Palin to his main foe. "I love @SarahPalin. Without her support, I wouldn't be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan," he tweeted. (© Independent News Service)

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