Last night, referring to the Republican presidential race, Sean Hannity asked Sarah Palin, “You haven’t given an endorsement. Are you gettin’ any closer to giving an endorsement?” The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate replied:

“Well, I can tell you what I would do if I were a South Carolinian….I want to see this thing continue, because iron sharpens iron, steel sharpens steel. These guys are gettin’ better in their debates. They’re gettin’ more concise. They’re getting more grounded in what their beliefs are and articulating what their ideas are to get the country back on the right track and get Americans working again.

“If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing goin’, I’d vote for Newt, and I would want this to continue — more debates, more vetting of candidates, because we know the mistake made…four years ago was having a candidate that was not vetted to the degree that he should have been….I want to see that [vetting] taking place this time because America is on that precipice. It’s that important. We need this process to continue.”

She elaborated:

“[W]ith the frontrunner, and with all the candidates, there’s still too many questions — we have to have these questions answered….And that has to do with their business dealings; that has to do with their experience while they served in office….We need to make sure that [the] frontrunner and all the others have everything out there in the open as transparent[ly] as possible.”

Palin also took exception to media efforts to convince voters that the result of the race is a foregone conclusion:

“I think a lot of people right now in the media and certainly on the Left want to make voters believe that…it is inevitable that the more moderate candidate will be the one to face Obama in the fall. However, I don’t personally believe that it is inevitable, and I also don’t believe that he with the most money actually has to be the one who wins.”

Palin, whose endorsement helped Nikki Haley win the Republican nomination in 2010 on her way to winning election that fall as South Carolina’s new governor, is the latest high-profile Tea Party favorite to offer up a near-endorsement of Gingrich. Allen West recently said that the former speaker of the House has had some “incredible accomplishments.” West said, “I think without a doubt he has proven to be the smartest person up there. He has won all of the debates. He definitely has a clear vision, policy-wise, as far as where he wants to take the country.”

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