Updated on January 19 at 4:17 p.m.
Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential nominee and Tea Party superstar, endorsed fellow Republican Donald Trump for president on Tuesday. The news came in a statement, but Palin is also appearing at a rally with Trump in Ames, Iowa, on Tuesday.
Palin’s endorsement seems at once perplexing and logical.
On the perplexing side is the fact that Trump—rhetoric aside—isn’t the most conservative candidate in the Republican field. Take Ted Cruz, whose spokesman took a preemptive shot at Palin over the endorsement Tuesday morning. Back in 2012, when Cruz was running an underdog campaign for U.S. Senate, Palin was one of the most prominent national conservatives to endorse him publicly, helping push Cruz to victory. Trump, in contrast, is a heterodox conservative, having previously backed Democrats, and having delivered stirring defenses of things like progressive taxation during Republican debates. Pointing to their very different lifestyles—New York City scion of wealth vs. working-class Westerner-turned-hardy-Alaskan—National Review deemed Trump and Palin “the oddest of political couples.” What gives?
But then there’s a natural affinity between Trump and Palin. Both are candidates who have capitalized on their ability to speak to the grievances of white, working-class Americans. They delight in inflammatory rhetoric—getting a rise out of the right people is much of the fun—and despise the press, even as their success depends in large part on managing to capture journalists’ attention. Both have a tendency to extemporize, producing sentences that are impossible to diagram and often to understand. Both have been reality-TV stars, though Trump rode his television fame to political success, while Palin rode her political success to a television contract.