WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is endorsing Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump Tuesday at an Iowa campaign stop, a source familiar with the plans told CNN.
Trump had been promising a “major announcement with special guest” later Tuesday, though he wouldn’t say whether the support would come from the tea party favorite.
“I am greatly honored to receive Sarah’s endorsement. She is a friend, and a high quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support,” Trump said in a statement sent after the news broke.
The businessman stoked speculation with an invite sent around late Monday, but offered no clues who it will be. At a press conference in Iowa hours before the rally, Trump declined to confirm or deny whether it was Palin.
“I’m a big fan of Sarah Palin,” Trump responded when asked about it by reporters.
The news of the endorsement was first reported by The New York Times.
“I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president,” Palin said in a statement the Trump campaign provided to The Times.
Palin has spoken highly of both Trump and his chief opponent, Ted Cruz, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper last month that she didn’t plan to endorse anyone “soon” but liked both candidates.
“I’m not going to pick one right now, but what a nice problem to have if it came down to Cruz and Trump,” Palin said. “That’s a good problem for voters to have, because we know that, as you say, they are both strong and very decisive and someone who would take the initiative. That is what we need today, and both of those candidates would fit that bill.”
Cruz brushed off rumors the Palin endorsement earlier on Tuesday, which marks a potential blow to his momentum in Iowa.
“Regardless of what Sarah decides to do in 2016, I will always remain a big, big fan,” he said.
His campaign also claimed that a Palin endorsement of Trump would backfire on her.
“I think it’d be a blow to Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin has been a champion for the conservative cause, and if she was going to endorse Donald Trump, sadly, she would be endorsing someone who’s held progressive views all their life on the sanctity of life, on marriage, on partial-birth abortion,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.”
Palin responded to the interview Tuesday, linking to a blog post by her daughter Bristol in a tweet.
“Is THIS Why People Don’t like Cruz?” the 2008 vice presidential candidate tweeted.
In her blog post, Bristol Palin slammed Tyler for suggesting the former Alaska governor would somehow hurt herself by picking Trump over Cruz.
“After hearing what Cruz is now saying about my mom, in a negative knee-jerk reaction, makes me hope my mom does endorse Trump,” Bristol wrote. “Cruz’s flip-flop, turning against my mom who’s done nothing but support and help him when others sure didn’t, shows he’s a typical politician. How rude to that he’s setting up a false narrative about her!”
The Texas senator didn’t mention the speculation about an endorsement for Trump in a tweet Tuesday afternoon, instead saying he will “always be a big fan” of Palin regardless of her role in the 2016 campaign.
“I love @SarahPalinUSA Without her support, I wouldn’t be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan,” he said.
Cruz has had a long, contentious history with Sen. John McCain, who ran with Palin in 2008. McCain has called Cruz a member of the “wacko bird” senators and has fueled the argument for those who’ve questioned whether the Texas senator would even be eligible to serve as president because he was born in Canada.
However, Trump’s also spent significant time this cycle trashing the Arizona senator, most visibly this summer when he said that the former prisoner of war was “not a war hero.”
Aside from similar conservative populist rhetoric which has inspired fierce loyalty among their working-class supporters, Trump and Palin also have something else in common: Michael Glassner. Glassner worked on Palin’s failed 2008 vice presidential bid and Trump hired him as his political director last July.
CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.