Watch the CNN Republican debate Tuesday, December 15 at 6:00 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. ET.
Sarah Palin isn’t shy about her least-favorite candidates in the 2016 field.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio? “Robotic.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? “Embraced Obama.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush? “George.”
Hillary Clinton? “Nyquil.”
And President Barack Obama himself? “Warned ya.”
Palin delivered the answers to CNN’s Jake Tapper as the two played a word-association game Monday night at a “Politics on Tap” event at the Double Barrel Roadhouse in Las Vegas. It came the night before the fifth GOP presidential debate of the 2016 campaign.
Palin’s comments reflect what much of the GOP’s conservative base think of Jeb Bush – that he’s too much like his brother and father, both former presidents. And she showed conservatives still haven’t forgiven Christie for hugging Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, just before the 2012 election.
She did have a compliment for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the low-polling Democratic candidate whose looks have drawn attention on social media.
Her take on O’Malley? “Biceps.”
Here are a few more highlights from their 25-minute conversation:
1. Palin loves Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
She doesn’t plan to endorse any time soon. And, in a nod to her history of backing candidates who didn’t win, she joked that the presidential hopefuls wouldn’t want her backing, anyway.
“Not if they’re smart!” she said.
But Palin wasn’t shy about saying her two favorite candidates in the 2016 GOP race are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
She offered some kudos for the “libertarian leanings” of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and said she does “so respect” retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. But she offered the kindest praise to Cruz, the GOP front-runner in Iowa, and Trump, who leads in national polls.
“I’m not going to pick one right now, but what a nice problem to have if it came down to Cruz and Trump,” Palin said. “That’s a good problem for voters to have, because we know that, as you say, they are both strong and very decisive and someone who would take the initiative. That is what we need today, and both of those candidates would fit that bill.”
Though the former Alaska governor wasn’t endorsing anyone, her daughter Willow Palin – who attended Monday night’s event – says she’s backing Trump.
2. Trump’s Muslim ban controversy? Blame the media.
Palin stuck with a tried-and-true tactic of saying the “liberal media” distorted Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
She said Trump didn’t get to “finish his thought” – and that she believes a pause in a “screwed-up” system more broadly is what the national Republican front-runner had in mind.
“I think that Trump was trying to finish the conversation that would lead to a pause on immigration in general, Jake. I think that’s where he was going,” Palin said.
3. Warning shots at the Republican Party.
Palin said it’d be the Republican Party’s fault – not Trump’s – if the real estate mogul decided he wasn’t being treated fairly and launched an independent campaign.
She said Republican voters are valuing candidates who split from the donor class, and the party overall “better not blow it.”
“The Republican Party’s got to do a better job of exerting independence,” Palin said.
4. Palin has some thoughts on drinking.
Or at least, two specific drinking-related questions.
Asked what beer she’d pair with moose chili, Palin said: “It would be a good Coors Light. Yes, yes – pretty simple people.”
And as for which Republican presidential candidate she’d most like to grab a beer with, she chose one who’s said he’s never consumed alcohol.
“The one who seems most fun bellying up to a bar would be Trump,” Palin said.