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Thousands attend Bachmann rally to see Palin

MINNEAPOLIS -- Conservatives from around the Midwest gathered in downtown Minneapolis Wednesday to catch a glimpse of Sarah Palin and raise funds for the re-election of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-6th District.

And judging by the crowd reaction they were happy with what they saw.

Palin was the main event. She and Bachmann entered the stage together to loud cheers and Martina McBride's hit "This One's for the Girls."

Palin recognized America's veterans three times during a nearly 20-minute speech, joked that it takes a woman to actually get something done in Washington and railed against government spending.

Lawmakers, she said, are "becoming addicted to OPM" (pronouncing it opium). "Other people's money."

While critics have called Republicans the party of no, Palin said she has no problem with that given the direction the country is heading. The problems she cited include overreaching spending and government bailouts.

"Stand up and speak out for what is right," she told the crowd, adding that it was vital for to re-elect Bachmann in November. "She knows freedom is worth fighting for and she's going to make sure our military has the resources. She knows that we need to keep America safe and free for the next generation."

Thousands waited in line at the Minneapolis Convention Center before the doors opened at noon even though the rally didn't start until 2 p.m. Music from the "Top Gun" soundtrack, John Mellencamp and other rock and country stars rocked the hall into a frenzy while GOP trivia questions about health care reform and other hot-button issues flashed on a screen next to a large American flag above the stage.

The ambience had the crowd at a frenzy peak two hours later when the main event kicked off and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Alaska Gov. Palin and Bachmann, who serves a district from Stillwater to St. Cloud, finally took the stage.

The GOP gave out more than 10,000 tickets for the event. Much of the proceeds went to Bachmann's re-election campaign, with the party taking the rest.

Pawlenty, like Palin, railed against government bailouts and said conservatives must win elections in November so the country can get back to limited government, free markets and individual responsibility.

"We have a federal government that is too big to succeed," the two-term governor said. "We have a government debt that is too big to pay off and we have national leaders that are too small to do anything about it."

During her speech, Bachmann thanked veterans and argued against heavy spending and government bailouts for banks, mortgage companies, auto dealers and other industries, events she called an "18 month economic coup."

"Did you ever think you'd see a day that (GM) was Government Motors?" she asked.

She also criticized the Obama administration for security shortcomings related to events like the underwear bomber, who attempted to blow up a plane during the holidays, and for removing terms like "Islamic extremism" from documents.

"Note to self: You might change the terminology but you can't change the reality," Bachmann said.

Pawlenty and Palin encouraged attendees to get active in their communities to elect Republicans and all predicted a good November for the party.

"It's time for a new beginning in the United States of America," Bachmann said. "We're going to get there. Because of you, we are going to get there."

Andrew Tellijohn writes for the State Capitol Bureau, a part of Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.