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Before thousands of Minnesotans, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann delivered a hard-edged message Wednesday of freedoms threatened and an overreaching liberal government that must be stopped at the polls in the fall elections.
They pitched "common-sense conservatism," wrapped in patriotic, down-home language, and voiced a repeated call to return Bachmann to Congress.
"We've been criticized lately ... that we're the 'Party of No' and we're 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?" Palin said to whoops and cheers from the adoring crowd.
"This country's had enough," Bachmann said.
Although the rally wasn't a fundraiser -- it was free and organized by the Minnesota Republican Party -- both women repeated references to ways to help Bachmann win her upcoming election fight. Palin also attended a private high-dollar Bachmann fundraiser after the public event.
"Will you do the rest of the world a favor and reelect Michele Bachmann?" Palin pleaded at the rally.
The two galvanize Republicans and gall Democrats like few others on the national stage.
The Republican Party gave out more than 10,000 tickets to the rally, although the crowd did not fill out the cavernous Minneapolis Convention Center hall. But the crowd had passion.
"We're here because we want to take back our country," said Cherie Taylor, of Crystal. Taylor brought her two daughters, ages 7 and 10, to see the event. Taylor said the girls were home-schooled and she considered the event "social studies."
Palin and Bachmann may glitter more than other Republican Party stars, but they strike supporters as just regular folk.
"She comes from an average, normal family -- not a rich, lawyer-type politician," Chad Jankowski, of Hutchinson, said of Palin.
Bachmann sounded the same theme.
"She is so much one of us," Bachmann said to the crowd, before adding, "And she is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous."
Palin and Bachmann are darlings of the fiscally conservative Tea Party, a movement Palin acknowledged nearly as soon as she took the stage.
During the rally, Palin repeated other similarities between Bachmann and herself.
Of their meeting in Alaska, Palin said: "I knew that we'd be buddies when I met her up there when she told me that we should drill here, drill now. ... And then I replied, "Drill, baby, drill." And then we both said, 'You bet'cha.' Yeah," Palin said to laughter.
Democrats on Wednesday called Bachmann and Palin "the extreme right-wing fringe," accusing them of "outrageous lies" while attempting to raise their own cash off the pair's Minnesota appearance.
Power on the rise
MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews proclaimed himself "dazzled" by Bachmann's and Palin's speeches Wednesday, suggesting they may be "the new star power of the right."
Bachmann's northeastern suburban district tilts Republican, but Democrats are working ardently to unseat the two-term member of Congress.
Bachmann said her top goal upon reelection would be repeal of the recently passed health care law.
"You better believe it, baby," Bachmann told the crowd. "Repeal is what this girl is going to be all about after November."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline all took their turns on the rally stage, delivering Republican red meat to the enthusiastic attendees. Neither Pawlenty nor Palin mentioned their possible 2012 runs, but both made the most of the rally, watched by thousands inside the hall and thousands more on the Internet.
Pawlenty ran down a laundry list of federal bailouts and federal expansion of regulation, eliciting loud boos. "I ask you, have you had enough?" he demanded repeatedly. Pawlenty also mocked President Obama's "great teleprompter language of hope and change."
Palin also took aim at Obama's much-hyped use of the teleprompter and a much-ridiculed habit of her own -- the hand prompter.
Declaring herself impressed by Bachmann's five biological children and 23 foster children, Palin said, "That was palm-worthy. I had to write it down," she said as she turned her scribbled-upon hand to the crowd. "This is the poor man's version of the teleprompter."
After the rally, the women moved from entertaining the masses -- who jigged to a Christian rock band, brought their kids to the event and wore T-shirts declaring President Obama a Communist and an "Obamination" to join a more well-heeled assembly.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bachmann held a private fundraiser with Palin, where more than 800 people attended a $500-a-plate dinner. Some attendees paid $10,000 per couple for a private reception and photo opportunity with the two stars. Bachmann will get the first $4,800 of any donation for her reelection and the Minnesota Republican Party will get the remainder.
Bachmann campaign manager Gina Countryman said before the event that she didn't know how much it would raise for Bachmann's campaign.
Bob Von Sternberg contributed to this report. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • 651-292-0164 Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673