Palin fires up 'tea party' activists at rally in Nevada
SEARCHLIGHT, NEV. -- Sarah Palin urged thousands of "tea party" activists assembled in the dusty Nevada desert Saturday to oust Sen. Harry M. Reid (D), saying he will have to explain his votes in Congress when he returns here to campaign in his home town.
The former Alaska governor assailed the Democrats' health-care overhaul and told a cheering crowd that Reid, who is fighting for reelection, is "gambling away our future."
"Someone needs to tell him this is not a crapshoot," Palin said.
About 7,000 people streamed into tiny Searchlight, a former mining town 60 miles south of Las Vegas, bringing with them American flags and "Don't Tread on Me" signs.
A string of polls has shown that the Senate majority leader is vulnerable in politically moderate Nevada after pushing President Obama's agenda in Congress. His standing has also been hurt by Nevada's double-digit unemployment and record foreclosure and bankruptcy rates.
In a statement, Reid responded with sarcasm to the large crowd gathered in the hardscrabble town of about 1,000.
"I'm happy so many people came to see my home town of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money, especially in these tough economic times," Reid said. "This election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachuted in for one day to have a tea party."
The rally kicks off a 42-city bus tour that ends in Washington on April 15, tax day. It took place just days after the historic health-care vote that ushered in near-universal medical coverage and divided Congress and the nation.
Palin appeared after spending Friday and Saturday morning campaigning for Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who picked her as his running mate in his failed bid for the presidency in 2008.
"Some of you are registered Republicans," said Palin, a Fox News analyst and potential 2012 presidential candidate. "Some of you are . . . what we used to call Reagan Democrats. And some of you are like so many of my friends and my family, including my own husband, just independent, not registered in any party. Just true, blue-blooded Americans."
Some at the rally wore old-fashioned costumes and carried drums, lending to a festival-like atmosphere. Organizers had said up to 10,000 people might come; about 1 p.m., police estimated the crowd at 7,000.
Among them was Leonard Grimes, a retired logger and registered independent from Golden Valley, Ariz. He called the health-care bill "a joke, just another way to enslave the American public."