Sarah Palin strode out on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington carrying a red leather briefcase — and off to work she went, firing off a year’s worth of sarcastic one-liners at “Professor Obama.”

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin greets a supportive crowd on the final day of the 39th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

“This government isn’t too big to fail; it’s too big to succeed.”

“Hope and change? Yeah, you gotta hope things change.”

“After a year or two [in ‘Obama’s Washington,’ lawmakers] decide it’s not really a cesspool. More like a hot tub.”

“The last thing you need is a community organizer reorganizing the deck chairs [on the Titanic] while singing, ‘Let’s Stay Together.’ ”

My personal favorite had to have been her Scarlett O’Hara moment: “So help me God,” she said, a world in which Americans are overtaxed “is not a future we’ll ever accept.”

Or maybe it was when she said Washington is a city so Roman in its moral decay that “they even have a Lamborghini dealership, not that there’s anything wrong with hot wheels.” (I think she might mean the one in Sterling, not that I’ve ever been there.)

A few of these crowd pleasers were recycled from her ’08 vice presidential run; she repeatedly referred to Obama as a community organizer — the conservative equivalent of a hedge-fund manager — and got a big laugh with her old line referring to Obama’s plan for “winning the future” as “WTF.”

Still, by the time she rehashed Obama’s biggest unforced error in ’08, the crowd was cheering so hard it was impossible to hear what she said after this: “The president says small Americans — small-town Americans — we bitterly cling to our religion and our guns. . . . We say keep your change; we’ll keep our God, our guns, our Constitution!”

This time next year, she vowed in closing, “we will have a commander-in-chief worthy of our troops!”

Craig Bergman, a CPAC attendee from Iowa. (Connor Turque)

Why? Because “that was the speech that could unify the Republican Party,” said Iowan Craig Bergman. “If we picked our candidate with the applause-o-meter, we’d have our nominee” in the former Alaska governor. “I think the Republicans are not going to win because she’s not running.”

After Palin closed the annual event, Bergman and a few friends were discussing how Mitt Romney, the self-described “severely conservative” governor of Massachusetts — who didn’t sound like he thought that was a good thing — could possibly have won the straw poll. (“Mormon infiltrators,” posited one man, who seemed to be only half-kidding.)

Others at CPAC described Palin as a pivotal figure but implied that she belongs to history now, like Paul Revere:

Jackie Walorski, congressional candidate from Indiana and CPAC attendee. (Connor Turque)

But no matter how many political obits are written for Sarah Palin, millionaire and motivator-in-chief, the most faithful of the faithful continue to say they’d follow her anywhere. “She sets the tone for the party,” said Erica Windham of Auburn, Ala., “and the others copy everything she does.”

Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors ‘She the People.’ Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.


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