Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Tuesday backed billionaire businessman Donald Trump for the party's nomination in the 2016 race for president.

Palin's endorsement was announced via a press release from Trump's campaign and she reiterated her support for the mogul at a rally Tuesday night.

"I am here because, like you, I know that it is now or never," said Palin at the event in Ames, Iowa.  "I'm in it to win it because we believe in America and we love freedom."

Palin, who emerged on the national stage when John McCain picked her as his running mate in 2008, praised Trump's leadership skills and slammed current U.S. President Barack Obama as "a weak-kneed capitulator in chief [who] has decided that America will lead from behind."

'A master at the art of the deal'

She praised Trump's record in the private sector. "Only one candidate's record of success shows that he is a master at the art of the deal."

Palin also took shots at the Republican establishment. "Some of these establishment candidates, they just wanted to duck and hide, they didn't want to talk about these issues until he brought them up. In fact, they've been wearing this political correctness sort of like a suicide vest," she said.

Donald Trump Sarah Palin

Donald Trump calls Sarah Palin "a high quality person whom I have great respect for." (Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)

In a statement put out ahead of the event, Trump said Palin is "a friend, and a high quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support."

Introducing her at the event, he said, "When I heard that she was going to endorse me, I was so honoured, you have no idea how honoured."

"This is a woman who, from day one, I've said that if I do this, I have to get her support."

Cruz controversy

Earlier Tuesday, a campaign spokesman for fellow Republican hopeful Ted Cruz told CNN that endorsing Trump would be "a blow" to Palin because of progressive views Trump has expressed in the past.

In a blog post, also published Tuesday Palin's daughter Bristol responded, saying "Cruz's flip-flop, turning against my mom who's done nothing but support and help him when others sure didn't, shows he's a typical politician. How rude to that he's setting up a false narrative about her!"

Cruz tweeted on the same day, "I love @SarahPalinUSA Without her support, I wouldn't be in the Senate. Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan."

The caucuses in Iowa — the first primaries of this presidential campaign cycle — are set for  Feb. 1.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Palin had announced her support for Trump in Ames, Iowa. In fact, she had not yet made her appearance.
    Jan 19, 2016 5:51 PM ET
With files from Reuters