Former Alaska Gov. and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin gave a rousing speech supporting U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., for re-election at a rally Wednesday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Organizers said they gave out more than 10,000 tickets to the event at the Minneapolis Convention Center. In front of the cheering crowd, Palin said that Washington is on a spending spree and that Bachmann is standing up for what's right.
She criticized the recently enacted federal health care overhaul legislation, and said Bachmann and other Republicans were right to oppose it.
"The Republicans have been getting criticized lately with this mistaken concept ... sort of surrounding Republicans right now that they are the 'party of no,'" said Palin. "And we are saying, what's wrong with being the 'party of no,' when you consider what it is that Obama, Pelosi and Reid are trying to do to our country? So be it!"
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Bachmann, who represents Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, was also sharply critical of the Obama administration on the health care law and on national security.
Noting that she introduced the first bill to repeal the heath care law, she said she hopes every member of Congress will file similar repeal legislation. Appropriating Obama's campaign slogan, she said there is hope and there will be real change in November.
"We were told by this administration with this high unemployment -- now upwards of 10 percent -- that that's the new normal. Is that the new normal?" she asked, and the crowd responded "No!"
"I think the new normal will be when Speaker Pelosi loses her gavel, and the new normal is when Harry Reid joins the unemployment line," she said to loud applause.
The national unemployment rate is 9.7 percent and Minnesota's rate is 7.3 percent.
The rally was sponsored by the Republican Party of Minnesota. In exchange for a ticket to the event, attendees were supposed to agree to volunteer for the party between now and the November election.
Steve Beck, who drove two hours from Browerville to be at the rally, wasn't pleased with that arrangement. He said he got tickets without agreeing to volunteer.
Beck said he supports the tea party movement, saying he and his friends didn't like all the Republican signs at the rally.
"We were disappointed that they have so much Republican stuff here," Beck said. "I wish the Republicans would let the tea party support them if that's who they want to support."
Both Palin and Bachmann criticized President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders. Palin said federal bailouts and economic stimulus spending must stop:
"There are too many people today with blinders on believing that this is all free money and somehow magically is all going to just work out, that it's just free money. What's happening to politicians especially in Washington is they're becoming addicted to opium. O-P-M...Other People's Money! There is an addiction there."
The two Republican stars had many attendees energized after the rally.
Susan Somerville drove from River Falls, Wis. to attend the rally. She said she liked Palin and Bachmann's message about reducing the size and scope of the federal government.
"I feel like I realize the desperation we're in in this situation and that we really need to take hold of our government and give it a shake and reclaim it."
After the rally Palin was scheduled to headline a private fundraiser for Bachmann, with tickets ranging from $500 to $10,000.
Earlier in the day the AFL-CIO sponsored a counter-rally at the state Capitol, attended by hundreds of union members and several Democratic elected officials.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, whose district covers the city of Minneapolis, told that gathering that they should feel good that Bachmann is bringing such big-name help to Minnesota.
"It is a sign of our strength and our power that they've got to bring that person here," said Ellison. "So don't you worry about it. It's a good sign. It means we're doing our job. it means what we're doing is working."
State Sen. Tarryl Clark is the DFL-endorsed candidate against Bachmann. Dr. Maureen Reed has promised to challenge Clark in the August DFL primary.