Update: The New York Times is reporting that Sarah Palin will indeed endorse Trump on Tuesday afternoon.
Donald Trump is going to have a “very special guest” at his Iowa rally on Tuesday, and a bunch of people think it’s Sarah Palin.
Many speculated that the announcement would be Palin’s endorsement of her old friend Trump for the presidency. Trump, however, would not confirm this on Tuesday afternoon. “Nobody knows who it is and that’s fine,” he said.
Donald Trump will not say who is endorsing him later today: "Nobody knows who it is and that's fine."
— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) January 19, 2016
A Trump backing from Palin would not be a total surprise. She recently said that the billionaire businessman and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) were her favorites in the race. But her relationship with Trump extends back years, a “political love affair” that strengthened over a mutual questioning of President Obama’s birth certificate.
To be sure, Palin wasn’t always a supporter of birtherism — she once called it “distracting” and “annoying”. But when Donald Trump began aggressively questioning Obama’s citizenship and demanding his birth certificate, Palin changed her tune, charging that Obama had spent $2 million to defend lawsuits over the issue.
“I appreciate that the Donald wants to spend his resources in getting to the bottom of something that so interests him and many Americans,” she told Fox News in April 2011. “You know, more power to him. He’s not just throwing stones and from the sidelines, he’s digging in there, he’s paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have spent two million dollars to not show his birth certificate. So, more power to him.”
Her claim about Obama’s legal expenses was widely panned. Politifact ruled it false days later, explaining that presidential candidates are usually hammered with legal expenses, and that the money his campaign paid to attorneys likely covered an array of services.
Still, the relationship between Palin and Trump was cemented. She continued to defend Trump, saying the press was treating him “unfairly” by focusing mostly on his birtherism.
A month later, the two met for pizza in New York City. The subject of their conversation was unknown (most people seemed more interested in the fact that they used forks and knifes to eat their slices), but Trump said they had a positive interaction.
“She’s a great woman, a terrific woman and a terrific friend,” he said at the time. “I’d love her to run [for president].”
Bitherism isn’t the only issue where the two blustery, controversial candidates have stood in unison. In 2009, Palin praised Trump for supporting Carrie Prejean, the Miss California USA winner who caused a media firestorm when she publicly opposed gay marriage. Trump said Prejean could keep her crown, and Palin was pleased. “I applaud Donald Trump for standing with Carrie during this time,” she said. “And I respect Carrie for standing strong and staying true to herself.”
Trump and Palin have also each focused a great deal of energy attacking the political press. Just like Palin’s memorable popularization of the phrase “lamestream media,” Trump has made a tradition out of insulting reporters at his rallies for being unfair or bad at their jobs. Other Republican candidates have certainly caught on to the popularity of criticizing the mainstream press, but no one does it quite as loudly or as often as Trump.
Both have also been caught in awkward moments pertaining to their knowledge of complicated policy matters. Palin was once famously unable to name a newspaper she reads. Similarly, when asked where he gets his foreign policy advice, Trump said he just watches network news. Perhaps predictably, Palin has defended Trump from some of his lapses, saying recently that “I’d rather have a president who is tough and puts America first than can win a game of Trivial Pursuit.”
Trumps seems to be equally supportive of Palin. Over the summer, he said he’d consider appointing Palin for a cabinet position in his administration. He hired Michael Glassner, the former head of Palin’s PAC, as his national political director. At the same time, Palin wrote a strong-worded op-ed for the conservative site Breitbart defending Trump against the “mainstream media.”
She ended it pointedly: “Here’s to ‘Making America Great Again’!”