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Palin Endorsing Trump at Iowa Rally. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 19, 2016 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news, Donald Trump picking up one of the most coveted Republican endorsements tonight.

Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee, is throwing her considerable conservative clout behind Donald Trump. She will appear with him in a rally in Iowa that is about to begin. We will have live coverage.

We're also covering that, much more with our correspondents, expert analysts and our guests. They're all standing by live.

Let's go straight to Iowa first.

Our political reporter Sara Murray, she is in Ames, Iowa, for us tonight at that rally.

Sara, the Palin endorsement potentially could help Trump a lot in Iowa.


Donald Trump has said he's not even one for big endorsements, but this one is a little bit different. Sarah Palin is a lot like Donald Trump, part politician and part entertainer, and this will be one of the rare times where Donald Trump is actually willing to share the stage.


MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump is sharing the spotlight, picking up an endorsement from Sarah Palin.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a big fan of Sarah Palin, but I'm not saying who it is.

MURRAY: Trump spent the day teasing a big endorsement in Iowa and parrying questions about whether that mystery guest might be Palin.

TRUMP: I think you will be very impressed.

MURRAY: Amid the buzz, Cruz promising his unwavering affection for Palin.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is fantastic. Without her friendship and support, I wouldn't be in the Senate today. And so regardless of what Sarah decides to do in 2016, I will always remain a big, big fan of Sarah Palin's.

MURRAY: Meanwhile, Iowa's governor, territories, unloaded on Cruz, saying he wants to see the Texas senator defeated.

GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R), IOWA: He hasn't supported renewable fuels and I believe it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.

MURRAY: Trump and Cruz spent the day tangling over who has the disposition to be commander in chief.

TRUMP: When you talk about temperament, Ted has got a rough temperament.

MURRAY: Cruz arguing Americans aren't ready for a President Trump and his frequent Twitter wars.

CRUZ: They don't want to wake up every day wondering if the latest polls might set off the commander in chief into a frenzy of tweets.

MURRAY: The two leaders in Iowa escalating their attacks just weeks before the caucuses.

CRUZ: This race nationally is coming more and more down to a two-man race between me and Donald Trump.

MURRAY: As Cruz tries out a new tactic, preemptive strikes against Trump.

CRUZ: Mr. Trump enthusiastically supported President Obama's stimulus plan and said the only problem was it should have been bigger. I don't think we should have a massive payoff to lobbyists from taxpayers.

MURRAY: While Trump tries to peel away at Cruz's evangelical supporters.

TRUMP: I will be much stronger in protecting the evangelicals. I will be much stronger, much, much stronger in protecting our country. And I think I will be a much better person for evangelicals, but also for everybody else.


MURRAY: Now, it's hard to say how much an endorsement like Sarah Palin's will move the needle here in Iowa, but with Cruz and Trump in a dead heat, I think everyone's trying to pull out all the stops to get whatever edge they can.

Trump is already here. We're just waiting for him to show up on stage with Sarah Palin. But, Wolf, they want to pack this room, and there are a lot of people waiting outside in the snow still trying to get in.

BLITZER: Is it a big room? How many people are they anticipating could fit in the room behind you over there, Sara?

MURRAY: Well, it is a pretty big room. It could certainly fit thousands. There's a tractor in the corner. This is a very Iowa setting, but now that Donald Trump does have Secret Service, there have been some growing pains. Everyone's still getting used to going through security and getting swept.

And, of course, as you can imagine, that's particularly sensitive on a night like tonight, when we have both Donald Trump and Sarah Palin at the same site. But they're trying to get people in as fast as possible. Wolf, I can attest it is very cold outside today.

BLITZER: Yes. But it will get pretty warm inside pretty soon once Donald Trump and Sarah Palin show up, I am sure. Sara, don't go far away.

I want to get some more on the race as we await the arrival of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. Big day for Donald Trump.

Scottie Hughes is joining us now. She's a Tea Party leader, also chief political correspondent for USA Radio Networks, a Donald Trump supporter.

When you heard about this news, I assume you like Sarah Palin. You were pretty enthused.

SCOTTIE HUGHES, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I was absolutely enthused. This is just another collection. It's almost like we're seeing a snowball of conservative endorsements behind Mr. Trump, and don't think it's just by coincidence.

It's absolute strategy. Last week, we had Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum. Now we're sitting here and we're going to have Sarah Palin. We also heard last night we had Jerry Falwell Jr. who did not endorse, but said some pretty praising words of Mr. Trump.

And I have a feeling that as the week goes on, we are going to see more and more endorsements and it snowballs. And this is all strategy laid out by Mr. Trump and his team. And here's the thing, Wolf. You have to look at Mr. Trump's team. For a person again who's been number one at the top of the ratings for so long, he has a relatively small team.


But for those people criticizing him about, who are you listening to, well, he's picking some of the best people. His Iowa state director, Chuck Laudner, was the person behind the Santorum victory four years ago, where he came from almost the bottom all the way to the top. So, he's picking probably some of the best people to help him put out this strategy for the campaign, and it's obviously working, according to the polls. BLITZER: Eight years ago, John McCain, the Republican presidential

nominee, he asked Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate. That's when she became really famous, the former Alaska governor. Do you think Donald Trump would do that?

HUGHES: I don't know necessarily about that. I think Mr. Trump has not even actually -- I was one of those who was advocating for maybe somebody else who is already running for president to be his V.P.

I think we're too far away from that decision being made, but I guarantee he is going to use the same type of strategy. And I will say this. This announcement does show, because Mr. Trump is very loyal to those that are loyal to him, it does show that somewhere, Ms. Palin, if she wants to, would probably be part of his administration. Just my guess.

BLITZER: All this comes the same day that the Iowa governor, Terry Branstad, announced he opposes Ted Cruz as the Republican presidential nominee. He says don't vote for Ted Cruz, presumably because his position on ethanol, which is an important issue in an agriculture state like Iowa. Were you surprised to hear that?

HUGHES: I was surprised to hear that, I will be honest with you, except that issue is very, very important.

What he should have probably toppled that with, though, was gone, OK, maybe not Senator Cruz, but how about these other candidates? And I think if he said that, it might have been establishment candidates. I think there are more issues in Iowa than just one topic, which is the ethanol issue. It's very important, but there are other important issues that maybe Senator Cruz is stronger on.

But this one issue, obviously, is a linchpin for the governor.

BLITZER: Is it a two-man race now, do you believe?

HUGHES: No, I still think we could see potentially a third or fourth, three- or four-man race. Going into New Hampshire today, the big surprise was Kasich actually appearing second in a lot of polls, out of nowhere, compared to the amount of time and effort that people like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush have put in.

Yesterday, we had a poll come out that saw Jeb Bush rising in South Carolina, surprisingly. So, I think you're still seeing this race by the establishment just trying to figure out who's going to be the power player. Now, for us conservatives, go on, guys, keep it up, keep the battle going. You guys sitting there distracting amongst the four or five of you is much better while we just are down basically to two, possibly three candidates in our category.

BLITZER: What do you anticipate hearing from Sarah Palin in the next few minutes?

HUGHES: I think we're going to hear absolute strength. I think something that Sarah Palin is known for is she has those lines. Listen, I'm sitting here with my make America great again Big Gulp, which Sarah Palin made Big Gulps famous during her CPAC speech.

She has these great catchphrases, these great lines, these great hashtags that trend. And that's something that Mr. Trump is good at as well, sitting there and taking a large issue and putting it down to just a key phrase that people repeat days after the statement is made.

BLITZER: Why do you prefer Donald Trump over Ted Cruz?

HUGHES: Ooh, that's a fun question. It's not that I necessarily prefer Donald Trump over Ted Cruz. I think both men would make great presidents. They both represent good conservative values.

I, however, think at this point in time, I think Donald Trump -- we need somebody that is going to go in there and not be afraid to be a wrecking ball to wreck up this bureaucracy that has been made by the current administration. Mr. Trump has shown time and time again he cannot be bought, he will not kowtow.

He will do what is needed. He shows the strength in leadership that right now not only the conservative movement, but Americans need to see from their leadership.

BLITZER: Can we anticipate, Scottie, that you will be a big force out there on the campaign trail?

HUGHES: Well, you know what? You never know where I'm going to show up, Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: I assume the answer is yes, right?

HUGHES: Yes, that's my political spin answer. I'm trying to get ready to be a politician, maybe.

BLITZER: Scottie, thanks very much.

Scottie Hughes helping us appreciate the support she has for Donald Trump.

Once again, we're standing by to hear from Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. They will be speaking momentarily out there in Ames, Iowa. We will have live coverage of all of that.

I want to get some analysis right now.

Joining us, chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Also joining us, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Gloria, it's a good day for Donald Trump.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a very good day for Donald Trump and a terrible, horrible, not-so-good day for Ted Cruz.

Look, this endorsement by Sarah Palin gives Donald Trump certain credibility, certain conservative credentials that Ted Cruz has been attacking him on recently, saying, you know, you're not really conservative, you have got so-called New York values. What does that mean? You're a little bit more liberal than we think.

It also gives Trump the attention he seeks. And Sarah Palin, while she has not been active in Iowa, can certainly help him energize the base to get those people to the Iowa caucuses. I don't think she's going to change anybody's mind, per se, but I do think she kind of solidifies certain people who are thinking about Trump.


Perhaps she will put them over the line and get them out to the caucuses on a cold winter night.

BLITZER: What's the reaction you have been getting, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can actually report to you something that our congressional producer, Deirdre Walsh, just got from John McCain, who, of course, was the one who put Sarah Palin on his ticket and on the political map.

He wouldn't go there on this endorsement, just saying, "I respect her views," of Palin. And when asked whether or not she is going to help Donald Trump's candidacy, he just said, "I have no idea."

This isn't surprising to me, as somebody who covered the McCain campaign and then McCain/Palin campaign and all of the years since. McCain has been very tight-lipped, very circumspect about choosing Sarah Palin and about some of the ways that he has differed with her since then.

But it is noteworthy, not just because of that, but because one of the earliest and first controversial things that Donald Trump said on the campaign trail was, of course, questioning whether John McCain is an actual war hero because he was captured, and, of course, held as a prisoner of war for many, many years. So, this is -- I'm sure has a little bit of a punch in the gut for John McCain, but knowing him as I do, he's not going to say that publicly.

BLITZER: I want to play that clip. This is Donald Trump speaking not that long ago about John McCain.


TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a war hero, five-and-a-half years as a POW.


TRUMP: He's a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He was a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: So, how awkward does that statement make potentially Sarah Palin feel, since she was elevated to the vice presidential running mate spot by John McCain?

BASH: I don't necessarily think it makes her awkward, feel awkward. I think it's John McCain that might feel a little bit awkward. Look, I think, for Sarah Palin, this is the best of both worlds. This puts her on the map again. We're talking about Sarah Palin, which hasn't happened in a very long time.

She is relevant again. So, I think that, all things considered, this is as good for Sarah Palin as it is for Donald Trump, maybe even better.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, how much does the Sarah Palin endorsement -- does she really fit into the Donald Trump brand of being a Republican?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, she doesn't, but I think that makes her endorsement more valuable, not less, because she comes from a different part of the party.

You know, another thing to think about when we're talking about endorsements is, we are now clearly in a Republican race where two candidates are leading, Cruz and Trump. The number of sitting governors and senators who have endorsed either one of the front- runners is zero. Neither one of them has a single endorsement from a governor or a senator.

And I think that just shows you what a crazy, unusual race this is and how the establishment, elected officials, are almost irrelevant in this story, because the Sarah Palins, the Phyllis Schlaflys, the Reverend Falwells, they're the endorsements everybody's coveting.

And the people who usually matter, the senators and governors, are just not part of the race so far.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, you have been talking to your sources. What are you learning about Sarah Palin's role out there, expected role on the campaign trail, especially the next 13 days before the Iowa caucuses?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'm told that Sarah Palin will be as available as Donald Trump wants her to be.

And, again, as Dana pointed out, this is very good for Sarah Palin as well. I mean, you know, this kind of revives her brand among conservatives, helps her sell books and other things. I have talked to a couple top operatives from rival Republicans' campaigns, and they both believe that it's an opportunistic move from Sarah Palin.

But, look, every candidate would want this endorsement, whether they like Sarah Palin necessarily or her policies or not. This is for the Iowa Republican caucuses. These are the activists of activists here, and most of whom like Sarah Palin. Now, I agree, it won't necessarily change any minds here. I think actually the bigger effect is after Iowa, in those states

after Iowa. This puts a conservative blanket around Donald Trump. I was with Mr. Trump in Pensacola, Florida, last week, was struck by how much he talked about his Second Amendment support and guns, but voters do have concerns about, you know, so-called New York values.

This erases that. Sarah Palin is as real as it gets to hunters and outdoors men and women. So, I think that he will take her everywhere he needs. But look how busy the calendar is in March, Wolf. Super Tuesday goes through so many red states. Oklahoma, tomorrow, she will be campaigning there with him.


So, if anyone has any sort of lingering doubts about if Donald Trump is a city slicker or sort of the other American, you know, from the rural heartland, I think Sarah Palin will rough off those gold-plated edges pretty carefully here.

So, look, it's a good endorsement. Endorsements are what they are. They don't necessarily mean you're going to win. But going into a race, it's a pretty good thing to have.

BLITZER: That's John Wayne's daughter speaking now. She has endorsed Donald Trump as well. So, they're getting ready for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.

I guess Sarah Palin, Gloria, doesn't have a problem with New York values, if you will, as Ted Cruz seemed to have.

BORGER: Right. Look, I don't think she's going to be out there actively saying Ted Cruz is a bad guy.

I think she's going to be out there bolstering Donald Trump. And so, you know, Ted Cruz was very smart today when he said he wouldn't have been elected to the Senate if it weren't for Sarah Palin, that he likes and respects Sarah Palin, and she just picked a different candidate.

One other thing about the McCain/Palin point which Dana raised which is so interesting, I recall an e-mail that Sarah Palin sent to our own Jake Tapper during this whole war hero controversy in which she called both John McCain and Donald Trump heroes, but heroes in different ways. And in a way, that kind of foreshadows what she's doing tonight.

BLITZER: Dana, the announcement by the Republican governor, four times elected Republican governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, not to vote for Ted Cruz, telling the people of Iowa, don't vote for Ted Cruz, he didn't endorse Donald Trump or anyone else, but he slammed Ted Cruz. That could have an impact 13 days before the Iowa caucuses as well.

BASH: It absolutely could.

Look, Ted Cruz is trying to blow it off as the fact that Terry Branstad, he says, is just part of the Republican establishment, but it's hard to argue that a very popular Republican governor in the heartland in the first caucus state of Iowa is part of the Washington cartel, as Cruz calls it.

And I think what's even more devastating than an endorsement is what Branstad did. He didn't endorse anyone. He just said, please, don't vote for Ted Cruz, which is almost unprecedented, I mean, in any way, but also especially for someone like Terry Branstad, who has tried to stay off the battlefield in the Iowa caucuses for so long and in primaries in general.

You know, he's a very, very -- he's a very powerful force in that state. And the reason why he gave also is powerful for a lot of Iowans, which is he's not good for us on ethanol. And for farmers -- and there are a lot of them, because I spoke to several of them -- who are not so sure about Ted Cruz, because they're worried he will end subsidies for ethanol, which is their bread and butter, their livelihood, it might make them think twice, even more than they already were.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, Donald Trump indicated he would love, his word, love having Sarah Palin as part of a Trump administration. He said this in a radio interview this past summer. Listen to this.


QUESTION: If there is a Trump administration, could you see maybe picking up the phone, giving the governor a call, picking her brain on some things, or perhaps having her along in some official capacity?

TRUMP: I would love that, because she really is somebody that knows what's happening, and she's a special person. She's really a special person. And I think people know that.


BLITZER: Do you think statements like that, Jeffrey, helped woo Sarah Palin to Donald Trump's corner?

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

You know, they have been seen in public for a long time. There was a hilarious episode in 2011 when they went for pizza together. And those of us who have New York values all noticed that he ate his pizza with a knife and fork, which is very much contrary to New York values.

But he -- so, there is an existing relationship there. And, you know, this is a good day for both of them.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey -- Jeff Zeleny, let me play another clip for you. This is what she told -- Sarah Palin told Jake Tapper about the opportunity she might have to serve in a Trump administration. Listen to this.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump says that he would love to have someone of your strength in his administration. When you take a look at the Cabinet, is there a particular area you think would line up best with your strengths, a position you would want to serve in?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: That's a great question. I think a lot about the Department of Energy, because energy is my baby, oil and gas and minerals, those things that God has dumped on this part of the earth for mankind's use, instead of us relying on unfriendly, foreign nations for us to import their resources? I think a lot about Department of Energy. And if I were head of that, I would get rid of it.




BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, that was vintage Sarah Palin. I must say, she's always been very blunt. Secretary of energy -- maybe she would be the last secretary of energy.

ZELENY: No question.

You don't see many politicians or people in public life saying they want to be a job, you know, to basically shut the lights out. But, look, I think she does have a future in the Republican Party, if it's a Trump Republican Party.

I mean, it all depends on who would be asking her to join here. I think what it does do, if Donald Trump would become the Republican nominee -- and, of course, he's leading the way here -- it doesn't necessarily take her off the short list, but I think that this is something that -- you know, having her as an endorser on the side, you know, might remove her a touch here.

Donald Trump is -- he is a business guy. He's a nonpolitical guy. So, you have to wonder if Sarah Palin is almost -- you know, has too much of a political record for Donald Trump to appoint. She's been a governor, of course. She was a vice presidential nominee at the time here.

But, look, we have to see how all of this plays out to see what her role would be in the future here, but I think she is going to return to all of our lives in a pretty big way for the next weeks, maybe months to come.

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump and Sarah Palin at this rally. You can see live pictures coming in from Ames, Iowa.

We will have live coverage. We will hear what she says, what he says, much more right after this.


[18:25:51] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump picking up a huge endorsement today, Sarah Palin. She's appearing with him at a rally in Iowa, Ames, Iowa, that's about to get under way and will campaign with him tomorrow in Iowa and then on to Oklahoma as well.

We will have live coverage of that endorsement when they both show up there. We're told it's momentarily. We will be able to hear what she has to say, what he has to say. We're following all of this, as well as a rare and pretty stunning move by the Iowa governor today, just 13 days ahead of the state's closely watched caucuses.

Terry Branstad told a reporter he wants to see Senator Ted Cruz defeated, saying his victory would -- quote -- "be very damaging to Iowa."

All of our political experts are here in THE SITUATION ROOM, but I want to go to Ames, Iowa, first.

Sara Murray is there.

Set the stage for viewers here in the United States and around the world who are just tuning in right now. What is about to happen over there, Sara?

MURRAY: Well, Wolf, you can see the venue is still filling in behind me, and Donald Trump is expected to take the stage any moment now and announce his big, special guest, his big endorsement. Of course, we now know that is going to be Sarah Palin. And, look, this might not be the kind of thing that moves big numbers for Donald Trump.

But when you are locked in a dead heat in Iowa, like he is with Ted Cruz, every little bit helps. And Sarah Palin is the kind of person who can still energize the Republican base, not just in Iowa, but also in those Southern states that are going to be very important coming down the calendar.

And, look, there are some ties behind the scenes between Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. One of her close aides left to go to the Trump campaign and is their political director now. So, there has been a little bit of back-channeling going on to make this happen. And there is no doubt that this is a blow for Ted Cruz.

Sarah Palin helped him out in his Senate race, and she said previously that she was divided between whether to support Trump, whether to support Cruz. The fact that she's now coming out here for Iowa and Trump is a big deal for a candidate who has mostly steered clear of endorsements. And a lot of Republicans have steered clear of endorsing him, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by. We're going to get back to you, Sara.

I want to bring in our CNN commentator Ana Navarro. She's a Jeb Bush supporter, Marco Rubio friend.

Is that still all true? ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's still all true.

BLITZER: It's still all true. All right.

NAVARRO: I don't know if they're still all my friends, but I'm still their friend.

BLITZER: All right.

So, what about this Sarah Palin endorsement, a big deal, not such a big deal? What do you think?

NAVARRO: I think it's a big deal.

Look, the attack on Donald Trump that Ted Cruz has been honing on is that he's got New York values. If anybody does not represent New York values in the Republican Party, it's certainly Sarah Palin. She is the mama grizzly. She is all about Alaska, outdoors, pro-life, pro- guns.

I think this is, you know, very good for Sarah Palin, whose star had been diminishing and is now going to be all over the press, and I think it's very good for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: And will it really help, though, 13 days before Iowa, for him to go ahead and defeat Ted Cruz in Iowa?

NAVARRO: Yes. I mean, I think it does make a difference.

If we have seen anything, it is that Donald Trump is very adept at handling the media. And here we are, you know, talking about this. This is a very big event. It's going to be talked about for days now, and I think he's got in Sarah Palin a very great surrogate.

Look, I traveled with Sarah Palin in the McCain campaign in 2008. She is a draw. I saw thousands and thousands and thousands of people show up in the middle of nowhere to hear her speak, and she's very good on the stump. So, I think he has got himself now a very good opening act.

BLITZER: And he draws a lot of people. She will draw a lot of people if they go out together or separately.

That would be, to use his favorite word, huge.


BLITZER: Yes, it would be a big deal.

And I assume you agree, Gloria.


Look, I think he's got to do two things, which is he's got to convince people that he is a real conservative, and he's got to convince evangelicals that he understands them and is one of them. And I think she helps him to do both things in the state of Iowa. She

remains a popular figure in Iowa. She can draw a crowd. You have two reality TV stars now together on the stage, and they will draw crowds. And she can energize the base to get those people actually to caucus sites.

[18:30:10] So, I think that, while the Cruz campaign clearly wants to downplay this, and I don't blame them, she has a certain affection for Cruz. And she campaigned for him and she said he wouldn't be in the Senate without her, and that's probably true.

I think, you know, this is a blow for Cruz, along with the governor giving, what do you call it, a de-endorsement or an anti-endorsement? You know, he didn't endorse anybody...

BLITZER: The Iowa governor.

BORGER: Yes. He didn't say, "I -- I endorse anybody," but he said, "I don't endorse Ted Cruz." Those two things coming together today are not a good day.

BLITZER: He says he wants Cruz defeated, which indirectly will help Donald Trump.

NAVARRO: Sure. And the Iowa governor's not just an Iowa governor. He's been the governor of Iowa for decades. He's got an incredible machinery in Iowa. He is a very respected. He's quasi-deity status within the republican Party in Iowa, so it's a big deal.

BLITZER: it is a big deal. Sarah Palin, she has been successful over these past several years of helping get Republicans elected in key races. You've covered a lot of those, and she presumably will help Donald Trump a lot right now.

BASH: Oh, sure, there's no question that this is going to help Donald Trump. The question is how much.

But you're right, I mean, right in that very state of Iowa -- Jeff Zeleny mentioned this earlier -- she was one of the first people to be on Joni Ernst's team. She is now the first female senator from the state of Iowa.

And Ted Cruz even said today that Sarah Palin endorsing him against who was -- the person who was then the establishment Senate candidate in Texas, the -- Mr. Dewhurst, he wouldn't have gotten as far as he did, he says, without Sarah Palin's endorsement a few years ago.

So, across the board, she's got a mixed bag in terms of results, but she certainly has done very well by a lot of candidates, particularly those who are kind of her ilk or her kind of Republican, who weren't very well known. That's obviously not the case with Donald Trump. It's a very different dynamic right now, but she has a very wide social media network, and despite the fact that, as I said earlier, she's not that much of a present, she's not that much a part of the national conversation as she once was, or at least until tonight. She still kind of keeps under the radar with the conservative movement. BLITZER: There he is, Donald Trump. He's just walking into that room

in Ames, Iowa, right now. The crowd, obviously, getting excited. He's not walking out with Sarah Palin. I assume he's going to introduce Sarah Palin at one point. She'll walk out separately. They'll have a little joint appearance. We'll hear what they both have to say.

Donald Trump getting over to the microphones right now. It's a pretty packed crowd, according to our own Sara Murray, who's inside. Usually he'll pause a little bit before speaking, but let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, everybody. Such an honor. With the snow coming down, and it's a little cold outside, and you have hundreds of people still outside trying to get in, but you know, we won't wait. We'll go ahead, right? Huh? We'll go ahead.

First of all, congratulations to the Iowa state basketball team. You had a -- what was that all about? I turned on the game. I said, wow, this shouldn't be that good a game. And then at the end of the game, I said, who won? Yes. That was great. That was great. And that's a great achievement.

I want to also pay my respects. Ben Carson, they had a really bad accident, some of his staffers were hurt pretty bad, so I just want to pay my respects to Ben. He's a good guy, a really good guy, and his staffers, and hopefully, they get better. Say a prayer for them, OK?

We've had an amazing time today. We've been all over Iowa, and we're going to be here tomorrow. We're going to be here so much, you're going to get so sick of me. You're going to say, please, tell him to get out of here. Tell him to leave, tell him to go. But we've had an incredible time.

And you know, it started really -- we've had, really, a pretty good week. The debate last week. Everybody watched the debate. And who knew about these debates? I didn't know anything about the debates. And it's been fun, and it's been interesting. And I've been treated semi-fairly by the moderators, not 100 percent. Some have been very fair, actually, and some have been not so fair, but you know, a lot of the press hasn't been very fair. Boy, look at all the press back there. They must think there's a big event going to happen today. Wow. That's a lot of -- this is like the Academy Awards.

But we've had an amazing -- it's been an amazing experience, and it started really on June 16, when we came down the escalator. We came down that escalator, and it was -- I said, let's go, to my wife, who's been so supportive and so wonderful. And I said, "Let's go. We're going to make America great again. That's what we're going to do."

[18:35:09] And you know, it was -- it's hard to do this, because when you think of it, I've never done it before. I've never been a politician, thank goodness, but I've never been a politician. I've always done jobs and put a lot of people to work, tens of thousands of people over the years. And you know, I have thousands of Hispanics that love me. The Nevada poll just came out where I'm leading with Hispanics, which I knew. I knew.

And we came out, and at that particular opening when I opened and said, "I'm going to run for president," I gave up a lot, you know, gave up a lot of different things, including telling our friends at NBC no more "Apprentice." That's hard to do. You have a top show, and you say, "I'm not doing it anymore. I'm sorry." They wanted to do it so badly.

And Steve Burke, who's a fantastic executive, came up to my office, and he said, come on, Donald. Come on, do it. You're not going to run. Do it. Do it. I said, "Steve, I'm going to run."

I was pretty sure. That was about two months before. I was pretty sure. It really is a tough thing to do. You know, all my life I've heard, if you're a very successful person, you'll never run for president. You'll never really run for politics, but you'll never, ever for president.

And I built a great company, and it's tremendous numbers. You saw the filings, and the press was going to look so closely, it was like D-day when we put those papers in. You know, first thing I did, I announced. They said, "Oh, he's actually going to do it," because most of them said, "He's never going to do it."

Then I signed -- when I signed form A, it's that's when you sign your life away, and I signed that. They said, "Whoa, he signed that. Well, he'll never file the financials, because maybe he's not as rich as everybody thinks."

And I filed the financials, and they saw an unbelievable -- you didn't hear a thing about it. Oh, boy, were they looking. I mean, were they looking. And almost 100 pages, the biggest report ever filed with the FEC In terms of that. And it showed a company that's a phenomenal company with some of the great assets, very little debt, tremendous cash flow. You know, the way it's supposed to be. And it was great.

And the reason I tell you that is because that is the kind of thinking we need now in the United States. We need that kind of thinking. We need that, whatever it is. We need a mentality that's going to, you know, we're $19 trillion in debt, going to be up to $21 trillion. You saw that horrible, horrible budget that was approved two weeks ago, and that's going to lift it. And so, we went along, and a lot of things have happened. And then the polls came out, which I loved, and new ones came out today, by the way, I'll tell you right now, you know, now that we're at it. And they came out, some brand-new ones, some beauties. And one's coming out, I guess a big one's coming out. I don't know exactly what it is, but it's got to be pretty good, because I see the response.

I mean, even this, with all the people still trying to come into this building, somebody said it's a barn. This is a very nice barn, actually. But -- but with all of the people still trying to come in, you see what it is. And we do have something special in a couple of minutes, really special. To me, it's really special, because it's a person that I think is a spectacular person. So, it's very special to me. But then the polls came out and some of them, as an example, national

polls, 38 percent for Trump, 20 percent for second. I wouldn't even mention names, right? Right, I won't even mention. I'm going to be non-confrontational today for a change. Twenty-one percent for the second, 11 percent, and then they're all down. Then some of them are actually at like 0 and 1 percent. I don't know. Jeb. Jeb.

Well, you know, Jeb's got one problem. He loves common core, meaning he wants your kids educated from Washington, which is immediately no good. And his second problem is he's very, you know, very weak on illegal immigration. Remember he said they come as an act of love. I said, what?

They come as an act of love. So, I think those are two very bad points, frankly. But -- yes.


TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.

USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. So, we had another one coming out. Go ahead. You can get him out, please.

All right, yes, you can take him out now, please. Never fails.

All right, thank you. Thank you, darling. Maybe you could be quiet a little bit while they take you out.

[18:40:15] You know, I have to be careful. If I'm too rough, they say, he was too rough. Then when I'm moderate and nice, they were saying, what happened to Trump? He's not tough enough. So, you can't win with these people.

The one good thing is they always show the crowd. That's the only way they show how big our crowds are. So, all right, get them out. Get them out of here. All right. So, South Carolina just came out, and that's 32 percent for Trump, 18 percent for second, 11 percent for third. Great. Florida leading by a lot, 31, 19, 13, and then all down in the dumps.

Georgia just came out. I have 33 percent. Don't forget, that's 33 percent -- it's hard to believe. That's with 14 people, 15 people? I don't know when they took it, but it was recent. Thirty-three percent.

Connecticut. Now, Tom Brady loves me, and that's sort of like, you know -- and I love Tom Brady, by the way. 35 percent to 18 percent to 9 percent to 2 percent, you know, to nothing. Maryland just came out. Maryland, great place, 32 percent to 15 percent to 11 percent to 9 percent, and then you know, they sort of phase out.

You ever hear of a place called Iowa? Oh, I love this. We're doing actually great.

First of all, I have to tell you, you know, they never report it. Even CNN doesn't report it. CNN does a poll, probably spends millions. They never report their poll. The CNN poll was 33 percent for Trump, 20 percent for Cruz. Nobody talks about it. Nobody talks -- they don't talk about it. They talk about -- CNN is reporting other people's polls.

So, I call up. I said, "Wait a minute. You're CNN. You spent a fortune on polls, and you don't report your own poll, because I'm winning by a lot. And they have no excuse, but they keep reporting other polls. But we're doing well. I think we're doing a lot better than anyone knows.

Graviss (ph) just came out, 34 for Trump, 28 for Cruz. BPP, 28 for Trump, 26 for Cruz. In other words, it's a little close here. Quinnipiac poll, very respected, 31 for Trump, 28 for Cruz. And then again, CNN, 33-20.

So, I think we're actually doing better in the polls. I could do this. I could say, "Well, I just want to do well in Iowa." I want to win Iowa, folks, because look, I love the people. The evangelicals have been phenomenal. I'm doing great with evangelicals, but nationwide, I'm winning with evangelicals, I don't know if you know that, by a lot, nationwide. With Iowa, we're doing very well have evangelicals. We're doing very well with the Tea Party. We're doing well. You hear the numbers. These are the numbers.

But I actually think we're doing even better than the polls. And, you know, there's a thing that a lot of people say, well, you know, they call up. Are you going to vote for Trump? He's got very, very tough immigration policies. He wants to destroy Obamacare and replace it with something a lot better. I'm going to do that, OK?

But you know, a lot of people, they'll pick up the phone, and they'll hear different things and they'll say, "No, I'll vote for" -- and then they get in the booth, they'll say Trump is my man. There are a lot of people saying we're going do a lot better. Well, we'll see, because February 1, you have to get to caucus, you have to go out, you've got to do it. It's so -- otherwise, we've all wasted our time.

You know, one of the groups in Maine, and it was like incredible, we were in different places up in New England recently, and New Hampshire was amazing, and the people are standing -- it was so cold. It was one little group of -- despite global warming. You hear about, it was so cold. It was the wind chill below zero, and people are standing outside for hours trying to get in, and then you hear the announcers, well, will they show up to vote? And I don't know much, but I say, if people are going to stand out for four hours in the cold or the heat -- because believe me, they stood out in heat during the summer and during the fall like you wouldn't believe in Tennessee, in Texas, we had 21,000 people. No matter where we go, we have these big crowds, but they'll stand for hours and hours to get in. Why aren't they going to go and vote, or in your case, caucus? Why aren't they going to go and vote? Sort of an amazing thing.

So, we think they're going to really be -- why would somebody wait for four hours and then we're not going to take two minutes to vote? Boom. Now, yours is a little more complicated, because the caucus system is

a little bit different. It's a very -- very interesting system, but it is different.

Here's what I have to say about Iowa. It's very important. So, you know there's a movement to move Iowa to the back of the pack, OK? You know that. You'll still see me, but you won't see other people, believe me. I'm loyal. To a fault, I'm loyal. But you're going to see.

I give you my word. I win, they're not touching Iowa. This is an amazing tradition. No, seriously. This is an amazing tradition.

[18:45:02] They're not moving Iowa back. They're not moving -- and they're not moving New Hampshire, either, because they're talking about Iowa and New Hampshire. They're not touching New Hampshire.

So, we're going to just keep it the way it is. It really is, it's an amazing -- first of all, you're amazing people, but all over the country, it's a movement all over the country. The people are incredible. They want to make America great again. They're going to do something that's special.

And you know, we used to talk silent majority. I say it's the noisy majority, because it's actually a noisy majority. It's not a silent majority. But people are fed up.

So, I started on June 16th, and we did well, right practically from the beginning. We went up, and if you remember, we started at nothing. We started at nothing, because nobody believed I was going to vote.

So, my wife said, you know if you run, you're going to win. I said, what do you mean? She said, people don't believe you're going to run. So, the polls, you know, because I was getting these little polls -- I felt like some of the guys now that are senators and governors, they get these little polls.

I was like, they can't get this guy -- he goes, Jeb again. Boy, he's taking a lot of abuse. I told him, you know what, you should use the name Bush. What's wrong? Use the name Bush. Maybe it's not working, but it's better than Jeb, right? You know, I really do.

Get rid of the exclamation point and just put Jeb Bush. It's your name. Don't be ashamed of your name.

So, anyway, I wish him the best. But you know, so, I started and I started at, like, 2 percent or 3 percent, and then it went to 6 percent and then it went to 9 percent.

And each time, the pundits, these real geniuses back here, some of them are sitting back there. These real geniuses like George Will with the little glasses -- take away the glasses, he looks like a dumb guy, I'm telling you.

But each time these geniuses would say, well, he's reached his plateau, he's plateaued at 6 percent, right? Then it goes to 11 percent. Well, you know, this is surprising, but he's reached his plateau. And then it goes to 18 percent, then it went to 22 percent, 24 percent, 28 percent, then it went to 32 percent, then it went actually to 42 percent in the Gravis poll, and in Reuters, we got to 42 percent and even a little above that.

And all of a sudden, you didn't hear so much about the plateau. I want to plateau at 42 percent. 42 percent with like 14 people, that's pretty good. But they kept saying he's plateaued, that's all he'll get. He's got these followers.

We have the smartest followers there are, number one. We have the smartest and the hardest working followers. We have people that love the country more than anybody and they want to take back what's happened because our country is going to hell. We can be nice about it, we can say it nice and soft. Our country is going to hell.

When you look at this crazy Iran deal where we're paying $150 billion, and they give us five back, but they don't know where the fifth is, and you understand what that means. That's not a good sign.

But they give us five people, but they get seven and they get 14 off the Interpol list. These are bad dudes. They get 14 plus seven, so they're getting 21 people, and they have the right to do whatever they want from an enterprise standpoint, right to do oil, right to do whatever they want. But why do they also get out of that deal?

First of all, they're going to get nuclear -- they don't have to develop missiles, they can buy them. For the kind of money we gave them, they're going to buy them. Why are they going to develop? Remember the day? They have 24 days for inspection period.

They also have self-inspection, right? But we paid $150 billion. And I always say the Persians are great negotiators, I say what a great deal that is. And two weeks ago I started. I said wait a minute, that's not a good deal compared to the other deal.

They took over Iraq. We gave them Iraq. We knocked the hell out of Iraq. We decimated their armed forces, and you know, for years they would fight.

For many, many years, for decades they'd fight, fight, fight, nobody would win, they'd fight, they'd rest and then go back to fight. Then they're the same.

Now, we gave them the second largest oil reserves in the world, which is Iraq. We gave it to them. Now they're going into Yemen. And if you look at Yemen, take a look, they're going to get Syria, they're going to get Yemen, unless -- trust me, a lot of good things are going to happen if I get in, but let's leave it the way it is.

They get Syria. They get Yemen. Now, they didn't want Yemen, but did you ever see the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia? They want Saudi Arabia.

So, what are they going to have? They're going to have Iraq, they're going to have Iran, they're going to have Iraq, they're going to have Yemen, they're going to have Syria, they're going to have everything. They're going to be a monster. We've created this with stupid leadership, really stupid leadership.

So, when I started, I said we have to do something about it. It's not something I wanted to do, it's something we have to do, because we're going to make -- I'm representing you. I'm not taking any money. I'm not -- you know, like some of these guys where they're getting millions and millions of dollars from people I know.

[18:50:04] And they're nice people and some are very bad people, but they have no interest in the country. They have interest in their company, or they have interests in countries that they're representing. And these people -- these politicians are going to do exactly as they're told by their lobbyists and their special interests and their donors.

Me, I'm going to do the right thing. And I always tell the story, when Ford moves to Mexico, I'm going to talk them out of it. When Nabisco moves from Chicago to Mexico, I'm going to talk them out of it. Believe me, it's going to be easy. It's going to be easy.

So --


So I started and I talked about the boarder, very strong on immigration and illegal immigration, took a lot of heat. But you wouldn't be talking about that subject if I didn't bring it up. And I talked about again, I talked about ISIS, I talked about -- but what really happened is after Paris, we had 130 people killed.

And, by the way, I told you Common Core is dead and second amendment is right this way. We're going to protect the Second Amendment. We're going to protect the guns. We're going to protect your guns.


You know, if in Paris and if in Los Angeles, where you had the two maniacs that were married, she came on a fiancee permit. Fiancee, you know, wonderful fiancee, she was totally radicalized, maybe radicalized him, maybe he already was that way.

But we got to start thinking. We have to start using our head. Bad stuff is happening. We have to find out what's going on. We have a president who won't even talk about the term, if you think. He won't even mention anything to do with what we all know is going on. And you can't solve the problem if you don't talk about it. You have to talk about.

So, very, very strongly we started talking about that. And then, after Paris, and, by the way, if we had a couple of you and you and we had three or four people in that room in Paris, as an example where they have the toughest gun laws like in the world, you can't have a gun, unless you're a bad guy, you bought (ph) a gun. And they walked in and said boom, boom, boom, you move over, boom, and

killed 130 more to follow because they're people that are so badly wounded.

But if we had a couple of few of the people I pointed at, I could pick plenty in this audience, believe me, if they had guns around their waist, if they had guns around their ankle with the bullets went the opposite direction, it would been a whole different story, folks. Be a whole very different story.

So, very, very big on second amendment. But what happened is all of a sudden after Paris and then to an extent and to a pretty big extent, Los Angeles -- to -- you know, in California what happened in these polls started coming in where everybody liked Trump more. I went up 11 points. I don't want to do it for that reason. But I went up.

Because people want strength just like having the family of John Wayne who is great. I love John Wayne from Iowa. But out of nowhere, I got the most beautiful letter from his daughter who you just met, who's an incredible woman and she said we would like to endorse you.

John Wayne was a strong guy. We need strength. We need strength in this country because we're withering away with political correctness. Nonsense, OK? Nonsense.

I mean, you think of it. You can't say merry Christmas anymore. We're going to say merry Christmas again. You go to the department stores and they don't have even Christmas displays. They don't have the signs, merry Christmas.

Even people that aren't Christian are saying, merry Christmas. We love Christmas. Let us say merry Christmas, happy holidays. But people like to see it. Stores tonight put it up anymore. We're withering away. We're going in the wrong direction.

So, I said we're going to do this. I had no idea it was going to work this way. I figured I would be in the pack and maybe like a resurge (ph) or just at the end, you can sort of inch it out. I had no idea I would have 21 point leads. Nationally we're up so much. And, you know, I want to keep it that way. I want to keep it that way.

When you think and just one thing before I introduce our incredible person, our incredible guest, but one thing I've spent to this point almost nothing and I'm in first place by a lot. I tell this story.

I'm not bragging about -- I'm just saying. I'm telling a story. I have spent almost nothing. I'm in first place by some polls have me 21 points. That's a lot, OK? Some people have two. I have a lead of 20. But I'm in first place by a lot.

Jeb has spent now $77 million. You know, the reason I bring him, I wouldn't bring him up but he spends a fortune in ads against me. You people have all seen it before. I got along with everybody.

I can -- I was a world class businessman and now I'm a politician, which I hate to tell you. But you go with everybody. You want everybody to love you. You want them all to love you, unless you're stupid. But you want to everybody to love.

Everybody knows the story but so much money has been spent on me. But he spent $79 million, I spent nothing. I'm in first by a lot. He's down toward the bottom of the pack.

I said to myself, it's amazing.

[18:55:01] Wouldn't it be great if this were a country doing this? As an example is education. We're number 28 in the world. We have third world countries that are ahead of us. Education is very important to me. Twenty-eighth in the world.

World -- countries that you wouldn't believe are ahead of us. You wouldn't believe it if you heard the names of some of these countries. So, we're 28 but we're number one in spending per pupil by far. Wouldn't it be nice if you had this election process where we spent the least and we had the best education, you know?

So, Sweden and Norway and China and others are the best. We're nowhere near them and yet we spend far more per pupil. So, we're going to change that and get it localized. But we're going to change that.


TRUMP: Watch. You just watch how. I can tell you we are -- and I will tell you this. You can't educate your children through bureaucrats in Washington and that's what happens with Common Core.

When the parents take over, when the parents take over -- and I really mean this because I've seen it. When the parents surround those schools and they love those kids and they love those pupils and even when their kids graduate, they are committed to those schools, they're committed to education, you can do so much better in Iowa than they can possibly do telling you what to do in Washington. And not all of them -- but most of them are just interested in where's my check, how much do I get, let's make the process complicated and some of the things that your kids are made to study are an outrage, OK? So we're going to bring that back locally and it's going to be great.

OK. So what happened essentially is I started looking and all the sudden things changed and people are now looking. They know I'll do great with China. I'm going to do great with Japan. I'm going to do great with Mexico whose killing us in trade and at the boarder.

We will build a wall and you know whose going to pay for the wall -- Mexico. They're going to pay for it because they make a fortune and all those things but now we're really focused on security, and I'm honored because I will tell you that all the polls and the CNN polls in particularly where they said Trump is just -- not by a little bit but by many, many percentage points winning on ISIS, winning on the military, winging with the vets, we're going to take care of our vets big league, by the way. Big league, big league, and we're really going to take care of our military.

It's going to be big and strong and powerful and nobody's going to mess with us and it's the cheapest thing we can do, I can tell you that right now. So, it's been a real focus.

I want to just now say a couple of words about a very special person. This is a person who I've known for a long time, who've respected for so long. An incredible husband, incredible family and somebody that when I heard that she was going to endorse me, I was so honored. You have no idea how honored.

And I would like to bring up, if I might, Governor Sarah Palin -- special, special person. Thank you.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Thank you so much. It's so great to be in Iowa. We're here just thawing out.

Todd and I and a couple of friends here from Alaska lending our support for the next great president for our great United States of America, Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Trump, you're right. Look back there in the press box. Heads are spinning. Media heads are spinning. This is going to be so much fun.

Are you ready to make America great again?


PALIN: We all have a part in this and have a responsibility. Looking around at all of you, you hardworking Iowa families, you farm families and teachers and teamsters and cops and cooks. You rock and rollers, and holly rollers.


All of you who work so hard, you full time moms, you with the hands that rock the cradle, you all make the world go round and now our cause is one.

When asked why I would jump in into a primary, kind of stirring it up a little bit maybe and choosing one over some friends who are running and I've endorsed a couple of others in their races before they decided to run for president, I was told, warned left and right you're going to get so clobbered in the press. You are just going to get beat up and chewed up and spit out and you know, I'm thinking and -- yes.

Like you guys haven't tried to do that every day since that night in 08 when I was on stage nominated for VP and I got to say, yes, I'll go. Send me. You betcha, I'll serve.