Why Is Sarah Palin At The Debate? She & Donald Trump Go Way Back

In the run-up to the third and final presidential debate, a lot of attention has been focused on the campaign guest lists, thanks in large part to a pair of surprising names on the Republican side. The Trump campaign notably invited Pat Smith ― the mother of Sean Smith, a state department consultant who was slain in the Benghazi attack ― and Malik Obama, the controversial, Trump-supporting half-brother of President Barack Obama. But there's another familiar face in attendance, one that's generated fewer headlines: why is Sarah Palin at the debate?

Palin, of course, needs little introduction. Alongside Trump himself, she's the only other person on Earth who's been both a member of a general election presidential ticket, and a reality TV star. She's also a vocal Trump supporter, having endorsed him during the GOP primaries, and it's a fitting pairing ― Palin's brand of anti-intellectual, low-information, grassroots conservatism ultimately helped give rise to the Tea Party movement. In a very real way, her presence on the 2008 ticket as Arizona senator John McCain's running mate presaged Trump's ascendance in the spring and summer of 2016.

So it should come as little surprise that the former Alaska governor scored an official invite from the Trump campaign, as NBC News' Hallie Jackson reported in the hours prior to the debate.

You might remember Trump and Palin's last high-profile pairing, which came back in January. It was noteworthy not so much for the endorsement itself, however ― you really couldn't find a more natural, logical inheritor of Palin's legacy this year than Trump ― but for the bizarre, rambling, and at-times incoherent speech Palin gave to mark the occasion. If you follow politics, you probably caught wind of it at the time. It was the one where she proudly saluted all the "right-wingin' bitter clingin' proud clingers of our guns our gods and our religions and our Constitution!"

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Sadly for all of us at home, Palin won't have the opportunity to deploy any of her unique, somewhat Trumpian rhetorical style on Wednesday night ― rather, she'll be sitting in the audience, watching her candidate of choice square off with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The only remaining question is whether she'll be watching a Trump victory, or what at this point seems far more likely ― yet another solid performance by Clinton, contrasted against Trump's visible unpreparedness and unfitness for command. Odds are you won't want to miss it either: it kicks off at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will be carried on multiple major news channels, as well as streaming online.