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As the clouds spit cold rain and sleet, more than 1,000 angry Minnesotans gathered on the State Capitol lawn Saturday afternoon.
They were, they and their signs said, mad about high taxes, government bailouts, the new federal health care law, illegal immigration, DFLers and the Obama administration (which they call a "regime.")
It was the annual Tax Cut Rally, a springtime fixture for a decade, a gathering of conservatives and Republicans, augmented this year by members of the Tea Party movement.
"Don't Tread on Me" flags flapped in the breeze alongside American flags and one big red banner superimposing President Obama's face with a hammer and sickle. The soundtrack leading up to the speakers included the Beatles' "Taxman" and Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."
This year's headliners were state Rep. Tom Emmer, the GOP's newly minted gubernatorial endorsee, and Sixth District U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose popularity in the party continues to grow. Though even with two conservative stars, the Tea Party had a turnout of only a fraction of the 6,000 members it expected.
In his brief remarks, Emmer led the crowd in a round of call and response:
"Have you had enough?" he asked them.
"YES!" they roared in unison.
"Are you ready to take back your government?"
Pointing to the Capitol: "Are you ready to take back this building behind me?"
"We're going to take back this state and show the rest of the country what freedom is all about!"
Bachmann opened her speech with a question of her own: "Hey, are you taxed enough already?"
"Fiscal conservatives, this is our moment," she said.
Recycling a recent Republican talking point that persistently high unemployment is the "new normal" under Obama, Bachmann said "the new normal is [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi losing her gavel, [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid on the unemployment line and Barack Obama a one-term president. That's a promise we can take to the bank. ... This is the end of the line for these people."
The federal government "should mind its own business and stay out of our private lives and our checkbooks," she said.
Referring to the midterm elections, "we have to work like crazy between now and November," Bachmann said. "It's all about November."
As she was wrapping up, Ramsey resident Nathan Pauly yelled, "Palin-Bachmann 2012, baby!"
"That's the ticket we need next time," he said. "A couple of straight-edge conservative women." Pauly said Bachmann is "a perfect representative of the true base of the party. And Emmer's the same way."
Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184