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Palin's double-edged Trump endorsement

Sarah Palin's rambling speech endorsing Donald Trump was at times odd and, at other times, great theater. But the endorsement, in and of itself, will yield little new support for Donald Trump.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks as she endorses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign stop, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ames, Iowa.
Al Drago | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks as she endorses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign stop, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ames, Iowa.

Keep in mind that the former Alaska governor's endorsement of Trump was probably as much about Palin as it was about Trump. Palin's speech was probably the most covered speech she's given since she ran for vice president. Consider the following:

  1. She lost or wasn't asked to renew a cable contract with Fox News. Some of this was undoubtedly due to the difficulty of managing the time-zone differences between New York and Alaska. But, if she were generating new eyeballs for the network, they would have signed her just to keep her from appearing on other networks.
  2. There has been little polling conducted on Mrs. Palin since the 2012 election. But, for the polling that has referenced her, the trend is unmistaken: Her popularity has fallen among both Republicans and especially the general electorate. She still has a net favorable rating among Republicans, but she's nowhere near the popularity she enjoyed in the aftermath of the 2008 GOP convention.
  3. Donald Trump's star has been brighter for longer than Sarah Palin's. While she's had some success as a reality TV star (recall she gave up her governor's seat to capitalize on her celebrity), she's never attained the level of success or durability of the Donald.

So, with this in mind, Donald Trump probably did as much to boost Sarah Palin as she did to boost him.

Now having said that, her endorsement wasn't just a one-way street. She did give Mr. Trump a stamp of approval from one of the most recognized tea party leaders and someone who's widely associated with strong family values. This came at an important time for Trump, given attacks on his authenticity as a conservative have been ratcheted up by Ted Cruz and others.


But perhaps what was most interesting was what Mrs. Palin didn't say. She riffed on the importance of Rand Paul's libertarian views, but she didn't praise Ted Cruz and arguably attacked him over twitter. Timing is everything in politics. Palin's endorsement of Trump, when coupled with criticism of Cruz from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and former Senator Bob Dole (who is still beloved in Iowa), was an especially tough blow for for Cruz.

Palin's endorsement of Trump probably did more to hurt Cruz than help Trump. Sometimes you get lucky in politics and Donald Trump was especially lucky this week.

Commentary by Sara Taylor Fagen, a partner at DDC Advocacy and a former Political Director for President George W. Bush. She is also a CNBC contributor. Follow her on Twitter @sarafagen2.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.