Former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin headlined a Tax Day-themed tea party rally at the Wisconsin Capitol on Saturday, and declared victory for the "common sense reform" agenda pursued by Gov. Scott Walker.
"You saw the forces aligned against fiscal reform," said Palin to cheering supporters, who immediately surrounded the stage at the King Street entrance to the Capitol. "You saw the obstruction and the destruction. You saw these violent rent-a-mobs trash your Capitol and vandalize business. And, Madison, you held your ground! Your governor did the right thing! You won!"
Palin commended supporters for persevering, declaring that "irresponsible and radical" policies of Democratic Party had roused tea partiers from all walks of life, and would bring them to the ballot box to unseat President Obama in next year's election. "Mr. President, you and your cohorts threw all the hatred and all the violence that you could at these good folks here in Madison, Wisconsin," said Palin. "But you lost here... and you're going to lose in 2012!"
Although the blurry line between tea party supporters and a larger chanting, whistle-blowing throng of union supporters surrounding them made a specific count of turnout difficult, the Capitol Police issued an early afternoon estimate of 6,500 in attendance total for both sides.
Meanwhile, conservative radio host James T. Harris emceed the rally, filling the brief intervals between speakers with exhortations and quips. One example: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to Illinois!" Other speakers included Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin director Matt Seaholm, and conservative radio personalities Tony Katz and Vicki McKenna.
Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, a late addition to the line-up, introduced the former Alaska governor, though not before shouting "Go to Hell!" to the pro-union protesters, who chanted and booed throughout the rally.
Palin spoke relatively briefly on the situation in Wisconsin, focusing instead on the President Obama and federal budget policies. "The only thing that trillion dollar travesty stimulated was a debt crisis, and a tea party!" she declared.
"Instead of reducing spending," Palin continued, "[the Democrats] are going to win the future by investing more of your hard-earned money into cockamamie, hair-brained ideas like more solar shingles, more really fast trains... All aboard the bullet train to bankruptcy!"
Palin charged Obama with "willfully ignoring the will of the people" though passage of health insurance reform and federal stimulus packages, as well as by involving the U.S. in "a third war we cannot afford" in Libya. "You hear our concerns and you tell us 'You just better get used to it,'" she said. "Well, Mr. President, we're not going to 'get used to it.' Not now, not never!"
The former governor continued in this vein, saying that the president "is the inspiration, why it is that we are here today. That's right, the Tea Party movement wouldn't exist without Barack Obama!"
Palin concluded with a thank you to supporters. "You are patriots, you are heroes!," she declared. "And when the history of this tea party movement is written, what you have accomplished here will not be forgotten! ... We will fight for America, and it's starts here in Madison, Wisconsin!"
As the tea partiers dispersed, one man shook his head, saying with a smile, "She's still perfect." Another responded, "Well, I know where my vote's going."