Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is endorsing Donald Trump for president, a snub to former ally Ted Cruz in the increasingly bitter battle between the two current White House hopefuls.
“I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president," Palin said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon by Trump's campaign.
Palin, whom Republican presidential nominee John McCain picked as his running mate in 2008, announced her support for Trump during a rally late Tuesday afternoon in Ames, Iowa. She did not mention Cruz, but she did allude to critics of Trump, including the Texas senator, who argue he is insufficiently conservative.
“Oh my goodness gracious. What the heck would the establishment know about conservatism?” Palin said. "Give me a break. Who are they to say that?"
While Palin's star has faded since her vice presidential run, she retains some sway with the anti-establishment voters Cruz and Trump are vying for as the race tightens in Iowa, home to the first nominating contest. The Trump campaign needled Cruz in its announcement of Palin's endorsement, citing a 2013 speech in which Cruz cited Palin's own enthusiastic endorsement of his 2012 Senate run as proof that Palin knows how to "pick winners."
Speaking with reporters earlier in the day in New Hampshire, Cruz said he held no grudge against Palin.
"I love Sarah Palin," Cruz told reporters before a stop in the community of Center Barnstead. "Sarah Palin is fantastic. Without her friendship and support, I wouldn't be in the Senate today, and so regardless of what Sarah decides to do in 2016, I will always remain a big, big fan of Sarah Palin."
Speculation about Palin's endorsement had started long before the Trump campaign announced it Tuesday afternoon. When asked earlier by reporters if Palin was the "special guest" he had promised to appear with him in Ames, Trump didn't deny it. Political observers online also pointed to flight tracking data showing a plane from Anchorage en route to Des Moines a day earlier. And Trump has maintained a connection to Palin in Michael Glassner, his national political director who previously worked for her political action committee.
Asked Tuesday morning about Palin possibly endorsing Trump, Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler suggested Palin would be hurting herself more than the Cruz's campaign by getting behind Trump.
"I think it'd be a blow to Sarah Palin because Sarah Palin has been a champion for the conservative cause, and if she was going to endorse Donald Trump, sadly she would be endorsing someone who's held progressive views all their life on the sanctity of life, on marriage, on partial-birth abortion, supported TARP bailout — I mean, it goes on and on and on," Tyler said in an interview on CNN. "If it was Sarah Palin, let me just say I'd be deeply disappointed."
Tyler's remarks earned an angry response from Palin's daughter Bristol, who wrote on her blog that Cruz's "turning against my mom who's done nothing but support and help him when others sure didn't, shows he's a typical politician." Palin shortly thereafter shared the post on Twitter, asking, "Is THIS Why People Don’t like Cruz?"
Palin vocally backed Cruz when he ran for Senate in 2012 as underdog against then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Palin endorsed Cruz four days before early voting began in the primary and later headlined a rally for him in The Woodlands after the race went to a runoff.
"Your conservative principles, passionate defense of our Constitution and our free market system come at a time when these cornerstones of our freedom and prosperity are under attack," Palin wrote in a letter to Cruz at the time announcing her endorsement. "Our shared goal isn't just to change the majority in control of the Senate, but to assure principled conservatives like you are there to fight for us."
Abby Livingston contributed reporting.