Palin backs Heller primary challenger

Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is backing Danny Tarkanian’s primary bid to unseat Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.), giving the GOP challenger his first major endorsement. 

Palin did not address Heller in the statement announcing her endorsement, instead framing Tarkanian, who has unsuccessfully run for a handful of political offices in Nevada, as the candidate who can best shepherd forward President Trump’s conservative agenda. 

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“Danny Tarkanian is a conservative outsider who will support the ‘America First’ policies our nation needs to survive and thrive, including building the border wall, ending sanctuary cities and finally repealing ObamaCare,” she said.

“Common sense Conservatives in Nevada and across America need to unite and help win this critical fight. I strongly endorse Danny Tarkanian for the United States Senate and look forward to helping him win this important election,” she continued.

Tarkanian jumped into the race earlier this month, blasting Heller for criticizing Trump and making clear he believes he can outflank the senator from the right.

Heller spent the 2016 primary race as a high-profile critic of Trump’s and the two have not always seen eye-to-eye since Trump took office. Heller in June opposed the Republican attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare, citing concerns about Medicare, but ultimately voted for the “skinny” bill that ultimately still failed the Senate.

His stances have already earned him some resistance from the right.

A pro-Trump group briefly launched an ad campaign criticizing Heller for his initial ambivalence over the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

And during televised remarks as Trump met with senators to convince them to back the plan, Trump delivered a lighthearted threat to Heller by asking him if he wanted to remain a senator. 

But while Trump used a visit this week to Arizona to publicly criticize its senator, Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Kelly holds double-digit lead over McSally in Arizona: poll Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-Ariz), as he mulls supporting a primary challenge against him, Trump thanked Heller for attending his remarks in Nevada and did not criticize him. 

The at-times frosty relationship has sparked some worry on the right that Tarkanian’s bid could help add to the GOP base’s frustration with Heller. 

If Heller wins his primary, he’ll likely contend in the general election with Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), a freshman congresswoman who has the support of most in her party. 

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