OXON HILL, Maryland (CNN) — Sarah Palin, igniting a crowd of conservatives, says it’s time to stop “preaching to the choir” and instead evangelize a grass-roots, anti-Washington message to all Americans, even those who disagree with the right.
“They’re not our enemies. They’re our sisters and our brothers. They’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. It’s imperative to reach out and to share that conservative message of liberty and less government and lower taxes,” the former Alaska governor said, urging growth of the movement.
Saturday marked Palin’s second time to address the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. With the gathering serving as a time for introspection among the Republican Party, Palin bucked party leadership and said only real reform can come from the bottom up.
“We’re not here to re-brand a party, we’re here to rebuild a country,” she said. “We’re here to restore America and the rest is just theatrics. The rest is sound and fury. It’s just making noise.”
Palin’s comments come two days before the Republican National Committee is scheduled to unveil its conclusions from a months-long “autopsy” of the party, following its big election losses in November.
Walking out to Shania Twain’s “She’s Not Just a Pretty Face,” the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee easily got the crowd on their feet. Her speech was rife with her folksy tough talk and snipes at President Obama. And of course, no Palin speech is complete without references to her hunting and outdoors life in Alaska.
Take, for example, an anecdote about her husband buying her a rifle rack for Christmas, while she bought him a gun.
“This go-around, he’s got the rifle, I’ve got the rack,” she said.
She spurred another wave of cheers and applause while pausing to take a sip from a Big Gulp, a not-so-veiled swipe at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s push against large sugary drinks. “We’re cool. Shoot, it’s just pop with low calorie ice cubes in it. I hope that’s OK.”
Not known for pulling her punches, Palin also took the opportunity to blast the president and Senate Democrats for failing to get a budget passed in four years.
“Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration ever,” she said. “You lied.”
The president, she said, has turned from “no drama Obama” to “all drama Obama” in a city that she said operates like a reality television show. She also dinged the president’s support for background check legislation.
“And background checks, yeah, I guess to learn more about a person’s thinking and associations and intentions? More background checks?” she said. “Dandy idea, Mr. President. Should have started with yours.”
But Palin’s most forceful criticism was directed against GOP leaders in Washington.
She chided establishment attempts to shape the last election, especially in congressional races. While she didn’t say his name, Palin seemed to take aim at Karl Rove, the former top political adviser to George W. Bush who was dubbed the “architect” of the former president’s campaigns.
“If these experts who keep losing elections and keep getting rehired and raking in millions, if they feel that strongly about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck up or stay in the truck,” she said. “The architects can head on back.”
Rove’s groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, spent millions in Senate races but had little success in getting their supported candidates elected. They’re now facing push-back from tea party conservatives for starting a new group aimed to help electable candidates sail through Republican primaries.
Critics say the new move is simply a way to push out conservative voices. For her part, Palin was active in backing the more conservative candidate in several Republican primaries last year. Many of them went on to win, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska.
With 20 months until the 2014 mid-terms, Palin said Washington should not be in the game of hand-picking candidate. She urged the audience to change the “top-down political process” and create their own search for the next best crop of contenders.
“Now is the time to furlough the consultants, tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home, and toss the political scripts, because if we truly know what we believe we don’t need professionals to tell us,” she said, adding one final message to Washington.
“Get over yourself,” she said. “It’s not about you.”
By Ashley Killough
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