Sarah Palin Says Republicans Have 'Eyes Wide Open' For 2010 Election

Palin defends being the "party of no," pushes back on Obama's nuclear remarks.

April 9, 2010, 3:57 PM

NEW ORLEANS, April 9, 2010 -- Sarah Palin brought her unique political star power to New Orleans on Friday to charge up a slice of the activist base of the Republican Party gathered for the quadrennial Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC).

"The Grand Old Party has its eyes wide open. Do we not have our eyes wide open? And we're realists. We know now. We know. We're getting back to our grand old roots," Palin said to a crowd of approximately 3,500 attendees.

"When the other party is wrong we're stiffening our spines and we're saying so because there is no shame in being the party of no," Palin said, " if ... the other side [is] proposing an idea that violates our ideals, our values, violates our conscience, violates our Constitution. What's wrong with being the party of no? We will oppose it.

"Party of no? Nah. We're the party of 'hell no,'" she added.

Palin emphasized Republican pride in saying no to President Obama's agenda items the party finds most offensive to its ideals. Her remarks stood in contrast to Newt Gingrich's speech on Thursday night where he urged his party to become the "party of yes."

"We should decide we are going to be the party of yes," Gingrich said. "Yes, to a balanced budget through controlled spending. Yes to more jobs through tax cuts. Republicans can say yes to stopping crooks from taking money from Medicaid and Medicare. Republicans can say yes to spending the money to help American soldiers get better equipment. Republicans can say yes to an American energy plan that produces American energy to keep American dollars at home."

Palin did give a nod to the potential political problem for Republicans if all they provide to voters is a wall of opposition.

"We're the party of Lincoln. The party of Reagan is back. We're not just the party of no, we're the party of ideas," Palin said.

Palin Pushes Back on Obama's Nuclear Critique

In a clear response to Obama's comments to ABC's George Stephanopoulos in Prague this week, Palin hit back against the president's assertion that she does not have any expertise in nuclear proliferation issues.

"Now, the president with all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer, and as a part-time senator, and as a full-time candidate, all that experience, still no accomplishment to date with North Korea and Iran," Palin said to thunderous applause and laughter.

Obama told ABC News during Thursday's interview, "last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues."

"If the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them, and not from Sarah Palin," Obama added, referring to the nuclear arms treaty he signed with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Thursday in Prague.

In previous election cycles, the SRLC has provided an opportunity for activists to size up many of the leading potential presidential candidates seeking to take the reins of the Republican Party.

However, with former Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty skipping the festivities, Palin was able to soak up most of the spotlight.

An unscientific straw poll is being conducted measuring the support of the potential 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls and the results will be announced Saturday evening.

Palin spoke extensively about energy policy, her most favorite issue, and pushed for her oft-stated "all of the above" approach to the nation's energy challenges. She expressed significant skepticism that the recent drilling and nuclear energy announcements from the Obama administration amount to anything more than lip service.

"There's nothing stopping us from achieving energy independence that a good old fashioned election can't fix," Palin said to applause.

The Republican activists gathered here convene at a time when Michael Steele, chairman of Republican National Committee , is facing a slew of criticism for recent spending controversies at the party's national committee.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., made a reference to that recent scandal involving RNC staffers taking some donors to a sex-themed nightclub in West Hollywood, Calif. recently.

"You may want to stay away from Bourbon Street," Jindal suggested to RNC staffers as some friendly words of advice.