NORWALK, Iowa — Donald Trump brandished the endorsement of conservative Republican firebrand Sarah Palin at an Iowa rally Wednesday in the increasingly intense 2016 GOP presidential sweepstakes.
"We had a big day yesterday. Yesterday was amazing in every way," Trump told supporters in Norwalk, Iowa, as he kicked off another day of campaigning with less than two weeks to go before Iowa's kick-off caucuses. "Sarah came along and she said we love what's happening. It's a movement."
But Palin, who was expected to campaign alongside her new political ally Wednesday, was a no-show at the Iowa rally. A campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about why she was not in attendance, but said that she would appearing at a rally later in the day in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Palin, the former governor of Alaska and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, erupted onto the stage in Ames, Iowa, Tuesday, announcing her support for Trump and echoing his campaign's mantra that it's time to "Make America Great Again."
"No more pussy-footing around," Palin told a fired-up crowd.
The endorsement comes as Trump is locked in a dead heat with Cruz in Iowa. The two have been ramping up their attacks against one another as the Feb. 1 caucuses have neared.
In the statement announcing the endorsement, Trump's campaign described Palin as a conservative who "helped launch the careers of several key future leaders of the Republican Party and conservative movement." The statement also quoted Cruz as once saying he "would not be in the United States Senate were it not for Gov. Sarah Palin. ... She can pick winners."
Campaigning in New Hampshire, Cruz said, "Regardless of what Sarah intends to do in 2016, I will remain a big, big fan of Sarah Palin."
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.
"I think it throws a pie into Sen. Cruz's face," said Trump supporter Tim Oelschlager, 56, who was at Wednesday's event in Norwalk. "It's kind of like somebody barbequing in your backyard, setting up a tent in your backyard."
Earlier Tuesday, Cruz faced another blow to his efforts in Iowa, after the state's Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said at a renewable fuels conference near Des Moines that Iowans should reject Cruz because he supports phasing out the fuel standard. Asked if he wants to see Cruz defeated in Iowa, Branstad responded: "Yes."
"I understand exactly what he's saying. And I think it has to do with more than ethanol," Trump said Wednesday, when he praised Branstad as "an amazing guy."
"Yesterday was a double. You had that statement and you had Sarah Palin," Trump reveled. "That was a good day for Trump."
During his remarks on Wednesday, Trump also zeroed in on Cruz, offering some of his most pointed attack lines yet. In addition to repeating questions about whether Trump's Canadian birth makes him ineligible to be president, he also pointed to bank loans Cruz failed to disclose.
"Goldman Sachs owns him, remember that folks," Trump charged. "I think when you go to caucus, you should think about that problem."
Palin's endorsement speech Tuesday evening combined the folksy charm and everywoman appeal that initially made her a GOP superstar with defiant taunting of a "busted" GOP establishment that she slammed for counting both Trump and herself out.
Palin offered her full-throated support for Trump and slammed President Barack Obama as the "capitulator in chief." Trump, she said, would be a commander in chief who 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.
"Oh my goodness gracious. What the heck would the establishment know about conservativism?" she said. "Who are they to tell us that we're not conservative enough? ... Give me a break."
Palin was a virtual newcomer to the national political arena when 2008 GOP 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. She signed on as a Fox News commentator after resigning as Alaska's governor in 2010, a job she held until last year.
Trump and Palin did not discuss how the endorsement had come about, but Trump's national political director, Michael Glassner, previously worked for her. Trump said earlier Tuesday that he doesn't typically put much stock in endorsements, but said of this one, "I think it could very well result in votes."
Palin has been expected to attend Trump's morning rally. His campaign had said she would "travel with the candidate to both events on Wednesday" and a message to supporters had touted "a very special guest" would be appearing.
Trump tweeted that he was "Traveling now with @SarahPalinUSA to Tulsa- massive crowd expected!" after the event.
Associated Press reporters Scott Bauer in Center Barnstead, New Hampshire, and Rachel D'oro in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.