After debate dust-up, Sarah and Bristol Palin come to Trump's defense

Why the odd pairing might be smart politics.

Cliff Owen/AP/File
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., in February.

They both have a track record for controversial comments that captivate as many people as they rankle, for using the national spotlight to tap into populist conservative grievances, and for earning devoted – if for some, perplexing – followings.

The Trump-Palin alliance goes back a long way.

It was on display again this Monday when Bristol Palin, daughter of one-time GOP vice-presidential candidate and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, slammed Fox News for its treatment of Donald Trump during last Thursday's GOP debate.

“I used to use this blog to point out how liberals use the ‘outrage industry’ to manipulate people and keep their power. Now Republicans are just as bad,” Ms. Palin wrote in her Patheos blog.

Fox News was praised by some for its tough line of questioning in the debate, including The New York Times' Frank Bruni who called it "riveting," and "admirable."

"We only have so many opportunities to hear from the fifty million candidates who are apparently running for President," Palin wrote. "And we get the Fox moderators asking questions that the New York Times applauds?"

She quoted conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, who said Saturday, "[The debate process] is supposed to inform the American people. Not gotcha questions, not gossip … Let’s focus on winning the election, not winning accolades from The New York Times."

Since the debate, Mr. Trump and Fox News have had a public dust-up, with Trump attacking the conservative network for what he called unfair treatment during the debate.

Following the debate, Trump specifically targeted Fox moderator Megyn Kelly, telling CNN’s Don Lemon: "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her – wherever."

That was enough for RedState's Erick Erickson to disinvite Trump from a prominent gathering of conservatives: “[T]here are even lines blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross," said Mr. Erickson in explaining his decision. "Decency is one of those lines.”

Bristol is not the only Palin standing by the outspoken presidential front-runner. In fact, the public friendship between the Alaska hockey mom and the New York real estate mogul reaches back years. In 2011, Sarah Palin backed Trump's birther claims against President Obama, telling Fox News, "I appreciate that 'The Donald' wants to spend his resources in getting to the bottom of something that so interests him and many Americans."

When former Governor Palin was flirting with a presidential run in 2011, Trump said, "She's a great woman, a terrific woman and a terrific friend. I'd love her to run."

More recently, Palin, who was Arizona Sen. John McCain's running mate in the 2008 election, refused to criticize Trump's comments questioning the senator's standing as a war hero, instead calling Trump "a hero in another arena."

In response, Trump hired a former Palin aide, Michael Glassner, and said he'd love to put Palin in his cabinet "because she really is somebody who knows what's happening and she's a special person."

The odd pairing is smart politics.

For Trump, criticized for his past liberal leanings, the support of Palin, with her unimpeachable conservative credentials, is political gold.

For Palin, who has been out of the spotlight recently – her Fox News contract is over, her recent speech at Iowa's Freedom Summit was widely panned, and polls indicate most Republicans do not want her to run for president – Trump is a way to regain attention and relevance.

As Stuart Stevens, the strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, told Politico, "Good for both of them and smart on Trump’s part. She appeals to a certain segment of the electorate and has been largely left out of the discussion and, for her, it’s a way to participate more."

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