On Thursday, the day before Minnesota Republicans are slated to vote on their choice for governor, Tom Emmer won powerful backing from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, one of the party's biggest stars.

Palin said Emmer, a leading candidate for governor, is a straight talking, patriotic hockey dad.

"A family man who wants to leave his kids a better future, a 'hockey dad' who once played for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks, a patriotic commonsense conservative who wishes to serve for the right reasons – that's Tom Emmer, and I ask you to join me in supporting him for governor of Minnesota," Palin said in a Facebook message Thursday afternoon.

"It's a significant endorsement," Emmer said. "Sarah Palin is the gold standard of grass roots politics in this country." While outside endorsements aren't always game changers, Emmer said Palin's nod lends a significant boost to the campaign. There will be 2,100 delegates at the convention tomorrow, and there will be 2,100 fans of Palin, he said. Emmer said the endorsement doesn't include any contribution by Palin or a promise of a campaign visit. Emmer's campaign wrote a letter to Palin about a month ago asking for an endorsement, said Bill Walsh, an Emmer campaign spokesman. "Tom won her over just like he is winning over all these delegates, on his character and his integrity and what he's talking about in his message."

The letter talked about Emmer's college and hockey connection to Alaska, Walsh said.

Palin and Emmer had a one-on-one meeting earlier this month when she was in Minnesota for a rally and fundraiser. Minnesota Republican Party chairman Tony Sutton said it's impossible to know whether Palin's endorsement will make any difference. "Historically in the past, when people from outside the state have gotten involved, it's tended not to be a positive thing," he said. "But in this case, Sarah Palin came in and had 10,000 people just one room over three weeks ago, so it's hard to say."

Both Emmer and chief rival Marty Seifert have pledged to drop out of the race if they do not win their party's nod Friday.