The most resounding speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference came not from a presidential candidate, or an elected official — but from Sarah Palin.
The screams and cheers that filled the spacious ballroom in which Palin spoke Saturday felt at times like they belonged at a Justin Bieber concert. A dozen times the conservatives at the conference leaped to their feet to applaud Palin, as she threw them line after line about beating President Obama and reclaiming “traditional values.”
“The president says small Americans, small-town Americans — we bitterly cling to our religion and our guns,” Palin said, referring to a comment Obama made in the last election, as the audience rose and cheered. “You say, I say, we say — keep your change. We’ll keep our God. We’ll keep our guns.”
For the first time at the three-day conference known as CPAC in Washington, protesters disrupted a speech. But the response from Palin’s loyal supporters was fierce. As protesters chanted at her from the back of the room at the Marriott, a man in the back row leaped over his chair, ran toward them and screamed, “Get the hell out of here, you asshole!”
The protesters were kicked out as others in the room began chanting “USA! USA!” followed quickly by “Sarah! Sarah!”
“See, you just won,” Palin ad-libbed to more cheers.
The GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee didn’t endorse a candidate for president, and she said that the drawn-out primary process can benefit the party — as long as Republicans don’t turn on each other.
“In America, we believe that competition strengthens us,” she said. “Competition relates to victory in 2012. We must stay true to our principles. I believe that the competition has got to keep going. But let’s make sure that the competition brings out the best in our party.
“We know that the far left and their media allies can’t beat us on the issues, so instead they’ll distort our records,” she added. “Let’s not do the job for them, OK, Republicans? OK, independents?”
Palin, wearing a bright-red blouse, black skirt and heels, spent her time on the stage bashing both Obama and Washington. But for all the contempt she had for Obama, she borrowed liberally from his most famous statements.
Perhaps alluding to Obama’s famous red-state/blue-state speech from the 2004 Democratic convention, Palin said in one of her frequent rhyming lines that Americans aren’t “red” or “blue.” She concluded, as the conservatives rose to their feet again, “We’re red, white and blue, and President Obama, we are through with you.”
“Hope and change — yeah, you’ve got to hope things change,” she added to laughs and more cheers.
Palin referred repeatedly to the tea party movement that has embraced her, and she demanded of the Republican establishment that conservative members of Congress be treated better.
“This November, we’re going to take back the Senate, and we’re going to fortify the House,” she said of tea party candidates. “We’ll elect more, and this time, establishment, we expect them to get leadership posts in Congress.”