Sarah Palin throws red meat to Donald Trump crowd

Story highlights

  • The influential tea party star trekked to the South with Trump to serve up a Palin-esque platter of red meat to a midday political rally
  • While Palin didn't directly target Ted Cruz, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee is helping bolster Trump's conservative credentials

Tulsa, Oklahoma (CNN)Sarah Palin is firing up the troops for Donald Trump.

The influential tea party star trekked to the South with Trump -- less than 24 hours after she endorsed the GOP front-runner in Iowa -- to serve up a Palin-esque platter of red meat to a midday political rally here, one of the states voting March 1 in the crucial SEC portion of the Republican primary.
She lamented President Barack Obama's "pussy-footin' around," slammed establishment Republicans' "complicity" in the country's condition and talked up Trump's appeal to the "average Joe, six-pack American."
    And as the Oklahoma crowd hollered and cheered and, when prompted, erupted into a sea of boos, Palin shed light on the role she'll play in Trump's presidential campaign -- which is careening toward a head-on collision with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's own campaign.
    "Not every conservative has had the guts to talk about the real issues that are needing to be discussed today. Our candidate is ballsy enough to get up there and put those issues on the table," Palin said, drawing some of the biggest applause of her 20-minute speech.
    That line came as Palin defended Trump's conservative credentials from those who are "saying we're not red enough, we're not conservative enough," padding Trump's conservative credentials which have been called into question recently by opponents like Cruz, who's dubbed himself the "true conservative" of the Republican presidential race.
    While Palin didn't directly target Cruz, who has credited Palin with lifting him to the U.S. Senate in 2012, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee is helping bolster Trump's conservative credentials as he fends off attacks two weeks before Iowans vote in the first primary contest of the 2016 cycle.
    And she offered Trump -- not Cruz -- as the one true conservative champion of tea party supporters who've firmly planted their flag in southern states like Oklahoma. It's those southern states that both Trump and Cruz have trained their sights on as they prepare for a long, drawn-out fight to the Republican convention.
    Richard Robinson, a 64-year-old Trump supporter who drove 50 miles Wednesday morning to see Trump, called Palin's endorsement a "great" one that will boost Trump's chances in Oklahoma.
    "She's very conservative, has a lot of conservative values that will resonate in Oklahoma," Robinson said.
    And Palin, who championed everyday Americans with her folksy "pitbull mom" appeal in 2008, also touted Trump as the only candidate not subservient to the "campaign donor class" who will fight for real Americans.
    "He's beholden only to doing the right thing," Palin said of Trump, who she championed as a fellow candidate who likes to "go rogue."
    Those kinds of lines on the stump will help bolster Trump's already-strong appeal with blue collar Americans and undercuts criticism -- again, from candidates like Cruz -- that Trump's "New York values" make him out of touch with salt of the earth voters.
    Even swing voters and Democrats said they saw the appeal in a Palin endorsement.
    Cory Webb, a 26-year-old who voted for Obama in 2012 but is now leaning toward supporting Trump, said Palin "was actually one of the reasons I came here."
    "I like the outsider standpoint," Webb said. "I know she was governor, but I feel like she is more like a normal person, you know."
    Another former Obama voter who is now fervently in Trump's camp, 44-year-old Dana Penn, said while she was no fan of Palin's, she was thrilled the former Alaska governor chose to endorse Trump.
    "I just hope that she's not a vice presidential candidate with Trump," Penn said.