Reporting from Reno — Seeking to channel the sign-bearing, flag-waving enthusiasm of the "tea party" movement into ballot-box victories, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told hundreds of supporters Monday they couldn't "party like it's 1773" until Washington was flooded with like-minded conservatives.
"I can see November from my house!" said Palin in a self-deprecating call to action that had been reprinted on buttons.
Though an exuberant Palin plugged Sharron Angle, the Republican running neck-and-neck with Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, Palin spent much of her 26-minute speech denouncing the policies of Democrats, whose base is dispirited and whose congressional majorities are at stake in November.
"The only way that government can allow our economy to get roaring again is for government to get out of the way and let the private sector do it," Palin said in a state that leads the nation in joblessness. "Liberals need to know they can't legislate prosperity from Washington."
The event started a 30-city nationwide tour for the Tea Party Express, the California-based group whose financial backing helped Angle, Alaska's Joe Miller, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and other conservatives secure Republican Senate nominations, but also strained relationships between the tea partiers and GOP's moderate wing.
That tension has been on display in Nevada, where Reid has racked up endorsements from numerous Republican business and political leaders who worry losing his Washington clout would harm the sparsely populated state.
"While Sharron Angle continues to troll for out-of-state support from right-wingers like Palin, Nevadans who will actually decide this election are overwhelmingly rejecting her candidacy," Reid spokesman Kelly Steele said.
Angle has enjoyed a fundraising bonanza in her battle with Reid, arguably the tea party's top target, despite a string of controversies. On Monday, her campaign was forced to respond to a video of Angle telling Latino high school students that "some of you look a little more Asian to me," and saying she had been called Nevada's first Asian assemblywoman, although she is white. Her campaign said she was discussing multiculturalism and that people can't be judged by their appearance.
Underscoring the race's national prominence are the political luminaries visiting the state this week: President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Angle did not attend Monday's event, but she was touted by Palin as one of the tea party hopefuls who "promise to listen and to lower taxes and repeal and replace that unaffordable, unbelievable mother of all unfunded mandates called 'Obamacare.' "
Palin spoke in the parking lot of a Reno plaza adorned with a giant blow-up eagle and signs proclaiming, "Vote Out Our Ruling Classless" and "We the People, Not We the Sheeple."
Palin described how Angle had fended off criticism during the campaign. "Bless her heart, the stuff that they have thrown at her and just tried to clobber her with, and yet she's still standing," said Palin, who took a drubbing in her own national media debut.
The former Alaska governor also took a jab at "the bigwigs within the machine" — she didn't specify which party they belonged to — who weren't supporting tea party candidates. She adopted a phrase Angle lobbed at Reid during their debate last week. "I join Sharron Angle in calling them to just 'man up!' " said Palin, who used the expression at least twice more to cheers.