ON THE NEWT GINGRICH PRESS BUS, Interstate 20, S.C. — Sarah Palin, who conducted a lengthy flirtation with a run for the Republican nomination last year, ended the equally lengthy speculation over which candidate she would endorse by naming Newt Gingrich — sort of.
Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor who ran for vice-president in in 2008, said that if she were a South Carolinian, “I would vote for Newt” in the state’s primary four days away.
The Gingrich campaign instantly posted video of the endorsement, which Ms. Palin made in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News that aired at 9 p.m.
Ms. Palin said that in her view, Mr. Gingrich won Monday’s debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She hedged her praise somewhat by suggesting she was going with Mr. Gingrich to prolong the Republican contest — in other words, to head off the inevitability of Mitt Romney’s coronation should he win handily in South Carolina. She said that a longer race meant more debates and more vetting of candidates, something that did not occur as it should have, in her view, with President Obama.
“I want to see this thing continue because iron sharpens iron, steel sharpens steel,’’ Ms. Palin said, framed against a rugged Alaska backdrop where such metaphors presumably come naturally. “These guys are getting better in their debates, they’re getting more concise, they’re getting more grounded in what their beliefs are and articulating what their ideas are to get the country back on the right track and get Americans working again.’’
Ms. Palin elicits strong feelings both positive and negative, but her endorsement is coveted even by strategists who dismiss the influence of endorsements in general.