Sarah Palin on Tuesday urged South Carolina voters to support Newt Gingrich in their GOP presidential primary, offering the closest thing to an endorsement the former Alaska governor may come before this weekend's contest.
“If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt and I would want this to continue,” Palin said during a FOX News interview Tuesday night.
Her support for the former House speaker, however, was somewhat qualified. Palin said she believed it would be best for the primary campaign to continue, so as to continue to add scrutiny to candidates and forge their strength as an eventual nominee against President Obama.
“More debates, more vetting of candidates because we know the mistake made in our country four years ago was having a candidate that was not vetted, to the degree that he should have been,” Palin explained. “I want to see that taking place this time because America is on this precipice — it’s that important. We need this process to continue."
“We think its a pretty darn clear call to arms,” Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told NBC News shortly after Palin made these comments this evening.
The conservative vote in South Carolina remains split between Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry going into the closing days before the Jan. 21 primary in the state.
Each has been rallying voters behind their candidacy as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who would see as the heavy favorite to win the nomination if he were to score a victory in South Carolina.
“If you consolidate the three conservative candidates, we clearly would have a huge margin over Romney, and the challenge for me is to convince conservatives to come home and have a single candidate on Saturday,” Gingrich told a crowd in Florence, S.C. today.
Palin offered words of flattery for Gingrich beyond her support this weekend, crowning him the winner of a Monday night debate. Her husband, Todd Palin, has formally endorsed Gingrich for president.
"Newt Gingrich is a true leader, which he has proven not only since the beginning of his campaign, but throughout his career,” Todd Palin said in a written statement sent out by the Gingrich campaign on Jan. 9.
It is still unknown if either Palin will actually campaign for Speaker Gingrich on the trail.