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POLITICS: White House

Sarah Palin brings down the house at CPAC

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Photo - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Saturday, March 16, 2013. Diehard activists at the three-day conference are already picking favorites in what could be a crowded Republican presidential primary in 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Saturday, March 16, 2013. Diehard activists at the three-day conference are already picking favorites in what could be a crowded Republican presidential primary in 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Politics Digest

Love her or hate her, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin proved on Saturday that she can still electrify a crowd.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, the former vice presidential candidate unloaded a truckload of red meat, mocking New York's soda ban, President Obama's gun-control push and a media she says is out to destroy the GOP movement.

Peppered with a dozen one-liners that drew standing ovations, Palin delivered an anti-establishment clarion call, saying Republicans needed a radical overhaul, not just a tactical adjustment.

"Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home and toss the political scripts," Palin said. "Because if we truly know what we believe, we don't need professionals to tell us."

At one point, Palin paused to sip from a Big Gulp drink, drawing howls of laughter from thousands at National Harbor who detest New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recently overturned ban on large sodas. And detailing her Christmas gift exchange with husband Todd, Palin quipped, "He's got the rifle; I've got the rack."

Since her meteoric rise to the national stage as Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate in 2008, some have questioned Palin's impact on the future of the Republican Party, given that she quit her governor's post mid-term and was dropped as a highly paid contributor to Fox News. For many at the nation's largest annual conservative gathering, such matters were trivial.

More than an hour after Palin finished, some in the conventional halls were still buzzing about her.

"Did you see Sarah?" screamed one woman. To which her friend, replied, "I know. Highlight of the week -- if not the year!

"I loved her; she's just so inspiring," Heather McDonough, of Charleston, S.C., said. "I don't know about her political future because she's been so vilified by the media. But she sure knows how to pump up a crowd."

In the wake of a humbling presidential election loss in November, the Republican Party is engaged in an ideological tug-of-war, with some calling for more moderate, mainstream candidates versus those who say conservative ideology shouldn't be watered down.

Palin on Saturday made her allegiances clear.

In a thinly veiled shot at Republican strategist Karl Rove, Palin said "The architects can head on back to the great Lone Star State and put their name on some ballot.

Rove has called on Republicans to nominate more electable candidates, lamenting defeats in winnable Senate races in Missouri and Indiana, among others, last year.

Palin is considered an unlikely 2016 presidential candidate, but she'd enjoy unparalleled name recognition among Republicans and widespread grassroots support.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a favorite among staunch conservatives, surprisingly emerged from back stage when the crowd was expecting the former Alaska governor.

"I would not be in the U.S. Senate today if not for Sarah Palin," Cruz said to thunderous applause, before introducing the former vice presidential candidate.

And Palin resurrected her role as attack dog against Obama, accusing the president of running a permanent campaign and a secretive White House.

"Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration ever," Palin said. "Barack Obama, you lie."

She hit the president for shutting down White House tours and other blatantly political acts.

"Mr. President, we admit it, you won," Palin said. "Now step away from the teleprompter and do your job."

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner