Sarah Palin is still the darling of many in the Republican Party in the United States. 

She sprang to national prominence when she was selected by John McCain to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election.

She wasn't well known outside her home state of Alaska, but was thought to bring youth and vitality to a ticket, which also needed some diversity.

Still, it was an odd choice and one those closest to McCain say he regrets.

Since resigning as Alaskan governor in 2009, Palin has spent her time building her "brand", her popularity and her fortune.

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Her autobiography, "Going Rogue" sold more than two million copies and became one of the fastest selling political books of all time.

She has appeared in several reality shows and is a regular pundit on one of America's cable news channels.

Palin has endorsed several right wing candidates running for office, although her record in doing so is mixed.

She has had some significant successes, backing Ted Cruz early in his run for the Senate in the state of Texas.

But she also supported Christine O'Donnell, who lost heavily in Delaware after video emerged of her claiming to have dabbled in witchcraft.

She's been friends with Donald Trump for years.

She enthusiastically backed the businessman's campaign to have President Barack Obama produce a birth certificate to prove he was born in the US, and therefore eligible to run for president.

And she sought Trump's advice when she was considering her own presidential run in 2012.

But so many of his past positions clash with her own.

He has said he's very pro-choice on the question of abortion; he once supported a ban on assault rifles; and he's talked of his admiration for universal health care. All of which Sarah Palin has hammered.

Significant endorsement

So her endorsement of Trump in the presidential race is significant. Not least because, so far, he has failed to win any big name support: not a single governor or senator.

She flew to the state of Iowa to stand by her choice and urge people to vote for him when they gather to caucus on February 1. By tradition, Iowa is the first state to vote for the presidential nominees for the November 2016 election. 

Palin gives Trump protection against the attacks on his "New York Values", shorthand for him not being conservative enough to be a Republican.

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She gives the three-times married, non-church going billionaire coverage with evangelicals, who form a big part of the Republican party in Iowa and who adore Palin.

And she gives him credibility with conservative women, a constituency he has struggled to win over.

She's essentially saying to all these groups, "It's ok to vote for Trump."

Her endorsement speech was typical Sarah Palin. It was folksy, it was loud and it was at times garbled.

"He's got the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about and debate on his sleeve, where the rest of some of these establishment candidates, they just wanted to duck and hide," she said.

And she added, "You quit footing the bill for these nations who are oil-rich, we're paying for some of their squirmishes that have been going on for centuries".

The first contest in the Republican side is narrowing to a battle between Trump and Cruz. And so Palin's endorsement is a setback for the Texas senator.

Cruz insists he remains a big fan of Palin, acknowledging her role in getting him into the Senate. But earlier his campaign spokesman claimed the endorsement would harm her reputation as a supporter of those who support true conservative values.

Palin's backing came just a day after evangelical pastor, Jerry Falwell Jr. praised Trump. Falwell is popular among conservative and church-going voters. 

But Trump will be more pleased with the support from Palin. And the publicity, glamour and, more importantly, the support that she brings.

Source: Al Jazeera