Even though she is much diminished from her heyday a few years ago, Palin still has influence among some conservatives. Trump now has that on his side, and just as important, Cruz doesn't....Exactly.
At the [Oklahoma] rally I talked with Jamie Johnson, a veteran Iowa politico who supported Rick Santorum in 2012 and Rick Perry earlier in this race, but is now unaffiliated. Johnson saw the Palin move entirely in terms of persuading voters at the margins of the Trump vs. Cruz contest.
"I think the Palin endorsement is important for all of the Tea Partiers who were deciding which of the two they were going to vote for," Johnson said.
Does Palin still have clout in Iowa?
"To Tea Partiers, she does."
"How big a part of the electorate is that?"
"Probably 15 to 20 percent of the people who caucus. I'd say 15 to 20 percent would identify themselves as Tea Partiers more than anything else, such as born-again evangelicals."
"And you would expect that some of them are caught on the fence now between Trump and Cruz?"
"I know for a fact that they are," Johnson replied. "I've talked to several people in the last two months who have been on the fence between Trump and Cruz. So if they're on the fence, this might be just enough to push them over."
Indeed, at Trump and Cruz events in the last two weeks, I have met plenty of people who were for Trump, with Cruz as their second choice, or were for Cruz, with Trump as their second choice. For some of them, Palin's seal of approval might make some difference. Before she spoke, I asked several people at the Ames rally whether Palin had worn out her welcome; none thought she had.
"It's a valuable endorsement because people still view her as an anti-establishment outsider who they can also relate to," said Craig Robinson, a former Iowa state GOP political director who founded the Iowa Republican blog. "And if there is any strategy to the Trump campaign, it is to dominate the media coverage of the race, and Palin's endorsement will certainly help with that."
That's an understatement. Palin's appearance with Trump immediately captured nearly all the media's attention. In coming days, it will inspire impassioned debate, make talking heads explode, and cause fevered speculation across cable TV...
Trump's a freakin' master of media manipulation. He keeps sucking up all the oxygen, and the Palin endorsement really is a masterstroke for the age. I love it. Like I said earlier, the Cruz campaign was probably hating it, and it turns out they were. They were freakin' fuming that the Texas senator didn't get the former Alaska governor's support.