It may seem like an unlikely spot for a political rally -- just a dusty patch of desert 60 miles south of Las Vegas -- but there's a reason former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin came to address thousands of people at a Tea Party rally today.
Searchlight, Nev., is Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hometown, and the people at the so-called "showdown in Searchlight" want to send him back home in November.
"We're sending a message to Washington," Palin said. "It's loud and it's clear, and in these upcoming elections we're saying that the big-government, big-debt, Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending spree is over. You're fired."
The event was advertised as a conservative Woodstock, a political be-in for the talk radio crowd.
As many as 10,000 people packed up their coolers, hoisted their "Don't Tread on Me" flags and hoofed it down the highway to gather in the desert for Palin.
"It's so good to be here for the showdown in Searchlight," Palin said. "So proud to be with all of you who are so proud to be Americans. God bless you."
Palin said the time has come to take back the government from "European-style socialism."
"The first task is to restore balance and common sense," she said. "And the first test will be at the ballot box in November."
Searchlight was the first stop on a bus tour that will travel through two dozen states before ending in the nation's capital on Tax Day, April 15.
The recent vote to reform the nation's health care system was the front-and-center issue at today's Nevada rally. The crowd wanted a repeal of that legislation, passed without any Republican votes.
"Something's not quite right when Fidel Castro comes out and says he likes Obamacare but we don't like Obamacare," Palin said.
Recent polls show Reid is vulnerable in his Senate re-election bid. His state has double-digit unemployment and record bankruptcy rates.
Today, Reid took the Tea Party event in stride.
"I'm happy so many people came to see my hometown of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money, especially in these tough economic times," Reid said in a written statement.
Indeed, the only motel in the town of fewer than 1,000 residents was full to capacity and even was renting out one room with no air conditioning or heating because the customer wanted to be there so badly, ABC News Radio reported.
The owners of the Searchlight Nugget Casino indicated they were Reid supporters, but were glad to see the business brought in by the rally.
"This election will be decided by Nevadans," Reid declared in his statement, "not people from other states who parachuted in for one day to have a tea party."
Palin began her day in Mesa, Ariz., campaigning for Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who made Palin a national celebrity by choosing the then-Alaska governor as his running mate.
McCain, too, faces pressure on his re-election bid, and enjoyed a second day of public backing by Palin, a popular figure with the Tea Party contingent that may hold the key to his campaign.
"Arizona, what do you say?" Palin asked. "Will you send the maverick back to the United States Senate?"
But just as Palin took the podium, hecklers tried to disrupt her.
Witnesses said McCain-Palin supporters pulled up one heckler by his hair and punched another, ABC News affiliate KNXV reported.