Outside the dusty Nevada meeting grounds, the campers and cars rolled up carrying signs proclaiming, "Russia called, they want their socialism back," and "Follow me to Harry Reid's retirement party." At center stage, Sarah Palin had her audience. As the wind blew the flapping American flags behind her, Palin let 'er rip. The big government, big spending era in Washington is about to end, Palin announced. "You're fired!" she informed Senate Majority Leader Reid, President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Tea Party Express, a loose-knit, conservative grassroots movement brought a crowd estimated by the Associated Press
at 7,000 people to tiny Searchlight, Nevada on Saturday to vent their anger at native son Reid -- Searchlight is his hometown -- and President Obama and Pelosi for their parts in passage of the health reform law and other liberal policies.
"There is no better place to kick off the tea party express than Harry Reid's hometown," Palin said
. Reid and other Washington elites are "gambling away our future," she said. And in a state where gambling is perfectly legal, the onetime Republican vice presidential candidate said someone needs to tell Reid, "this is not a crapshoot."
Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston
said cars and trucks were lined up on the shoulder of the road
a quarter of a mile from the meeting site and Palin's makeshift stage. One vehicle was festooned with a sign, reading "Obama Bin Lyin'."
Reid, shown by polls to be vulnerable in his reelection bid this November, took it all in stride, the AP said. "I'm happy to see so many people came to see my hometown of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money, especially in these tough economic times," he said in a statement. "This election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachuted in for one day to have a tea party."
Palin traveled to this town of 1,000 from Arizona where she appeared at campaign events promoting the reelection of Sen. John McCain, the man who vaulted her to political prominence when he named the then-little known Alaskan governor to his ticket in the 2008 presidential campaign.
In Searchlight, Palin railed against the health care billl, Obama's overhaul of the student loan program and bank bailouts. "We've got news for them, we get it. We understand plenty -- and we still don't like it." She said reports from mainstream media of conservatives inciting violence were a "bunch of bunk." Don't let anyone tell you, she advised the tea party folks, to "sit down and shut up." And the next time you see someone driving a car with an Obama sticker, she suggested, ask the driver, "so is that hopey changey thing workin' out for you?"
With Republicans aiming to make major gains in the U.S. House and Senate in November mid-term elections, Palin declared, "We're saying that the big government, big debt Obama, Pelosi, Reid spending spree is over-- you're fired."