The third Republican primary debate is scheduled for Wednesday night in Miami, Florida and, for the third time, former President Donald Trump will not participate but instead will hold a rally nearby as a form of counterprogramming.
It is at that counterprogramming rally that Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) is expected to finally announce her endorsement of Trump to be the GOP nominee in 2024, according to Breitbart.
There had been speculation for several months about why Sanders, who previously served as Trump's White House press secretary, had not yet endorsed her former boss, but all of that should end Wednesday night if the governor does as anticipated and publicly expresses her support for Trump's re-election bid.
NBC News was the first to report on Monday via an unnamed source that Gov. Sanders would not only attend former President Trump's counter-debate rally in Hialeah, Florida on Wednesday but would also publicly announce her endorsement of his candidacy at that event.
The outlet noted that in addition to the rally countering the GOP primary debate, the endorsement of Trump by Sanders would also serve to counter the recent endorsement that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) gave to the former president's chief rival in the primary race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
Within hours of NBC's report being published, Gov. Sanders appeared to confirm the news with a statement that said, "It’s not a question between right versus left anymore. It’s normal versus crazy, and President Biden and the left are doubling down on crazy. The time has come to return to the normal policies of the Trump era which created a safer, stronger, and more prosperous America, and that’s why I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for President."
Trump himself responded to the announcement of the impending Sanders endorsement and said in a statement of his own, "We had great success in the White House and it’s an honor to have Sarah’s endorsement. I look forward to having her at the big rally in Hialeah this Wednesday."
Politico, which separately confirmed the initial scoop from NBC News, made note of the earlier speculative reports about Gov. Sanders withholding her endorsement of former President Trump and the tension with her old boss that apparent neutrality had supposedly caused.
Part and parcel with the speculation were rumors that Sanders might actually endorse Gov. DeSantis, that she was waiting to see which direction the Republican base would go, or even that she was keeping her options open with an eye toward a presidential run of her own in a future election cycle.
Regardless of the ultimate reason, reports claimed that Trump was displeased with the delayed endorsement, particularly in light of early endorsements received from other Republican governors and especially because he viewed himself as deserving credit for her gubernatorial victory by making her a national figure as his press secretary and offering up his own endorsement of her run on the day she first announced it in 2021.
Axios had reported in July about the alleged tension building between the former president and his former press secretary over the lack of an endorsement and the growing frustration at that time about an earlier excuse from Gov. Sanders' team that she was waiting for the Arkansas legislature to end its session -- a session that actually concluded in May.
There had even been an anonymously-sourced report, strongly denied by Trump himself, that he had asked Sanders for her endorsement but was declined, as well as reports that played up the possibility of a DeSantis endorsement due to the friendship that Sanders developed with Florida first lady Casey DeSantis as the two women dealt with individual cancer diagnoses and treatment.
Sanders, like Trump, dismissed the speculative reports but nonetheless still didn't endorse him at that time, as her spokeswoman told Axios, "Governor Sanders loves President Trump and believes our country would be much better off under his leadership than President Biden, and that President Trump is the dominant frontrunner and our likely Republican nominee in 2024."
All of that supposed tension and frustration may be water under the bridge now that Sanders is set to finally endorse Trump, but there may also be lingering hard feelings, as one unnamed Trump adviser at his Mar-a-Lago resort told NBC News of Sanders, "MAL has been furious with her for months for going this long without endorsing. There’s always a way back in Trumpworld, but I’m not sure if President Trump will ever view her the same again."