January 20, 2016 12:14 pm
Updated: January 21, 2016 10:33 am

Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump a boost as Iowa vote looms

WATCH: Bob Dole is the latest Republican to back Donald Trump, just days after Sarah Palin publicly supported the GOP frontrunner.

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AMES, Iowa – The endorsement of conservative Republican firebrand Sarah Palin in the increasingly intense 2016 presidential race is giving billionaire businessman Donald Trump a boost against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz less than two weeks before Iowa’s kick-off caucuses.

“This is going to be so much fun,” the 2008 vice-presidential candidate told a Trump rally Tuesday.

Trump and Cruz are battling for the lead in Iowa ahead of the Feb. 1 caucuses there. “We’re almost at the finish line,” Trump said Wednesday.

Palin endorsed Cruz in his 2012 Senate race and said as recently as last month that he and Trump were both in her top tier of candidates, making the endorsement a symbolic blow to Cruz.

WATCH: Sarah Palin says Donald Trump has a ‘quiet generosity’

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Palin slammed President Barack Obama as the “capitulator in chief.” Trump, she said, would “let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS’ ass!”

She also took aim at the Republican establishment for “attacking their own front-runner” and offered a challenge to those who have suggested that Trump, whose positions on issues like gun control and abortion rights have shifted over the years, isn’t conservative enough.

READ MORE: Sarah Palin’s oldest son arrested in domestic violence case

Trump, in a statement, praised Palin as “a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for.”

But Palin, who was expected to campaign alongside her new political ally Wednesday, did not show up at an Iowa rally. A campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about why she was not in attendance, but said that she would be appearing at a rally later in the day in Oklahoma.

WATCH: Donald Trump says he’s ‘honoured’ to be endorsed by Sarah Palin

Palin was a virtual newcomer to the national political arena when 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain named her as his running mate. She has since risen to prominence as one of the most outspoken conservatives in the party.

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 Tuesday evening 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.

Associated Press reporters Scott Bauer in Center Barnstead, New Hampshire, and Rachel D’oro in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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