NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Sarah Palin may no longer hold public office, be a candidate for national office or have a paid contributor slot at a news network, but when put in front of a room full of conservatives, she still has no trouble riling up a crowd.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference here Saturday, Palin was interrupted more than half a dozen times by standing ovations throughout a short red-meat speech, where she dinged the Republican Party and called on the conservative movement to be more inclusive. Palin, who delivered the keynote address at the same event last year, argued that Republicans acted "too calculated" and "scripted."
"Even our guys in the GOP too often have a habit of reading their stage directions, especially these days. They're being too scripted, too calculated. They talk about rebuilding the party. How about rebuilding the middle class?" Palin said. "They talk about re-branding the GOP instead of restoring the trust of the American people. Now, we can't just ignore, though, that we just lost a big election. Came in second. Out of two. Second position on the dog sled team--it's where the view never changes and the view ain't pretty."
"But we need to figure out then, our job. What will we do next?" she added. "Let's be clear about one thing: We're not here to re-brand a party. We're here to rebuild a country."
While Palin no longer has the national platform she did before she declined to run for president in October 2011 and after she left Fox News earlier this year, she continues to back conservative candidates for office through her political action committee and speak at conferences around the country. Her well-known folksy public speaking approach and populist message still appears to resonate with conservative activists still seeking someone to blame for last year's bruising presidential election.
Without naming any names, Palin warned the party faithful against appearing closed to groups that don't traditionally support Republicans--a common general criticism of Mitt Romney's campaign--and to make stronger efforts to bring more groups into the party.
"As conservatives, we must leave no American behind. And we must share our message of freedom and liberty to all citizens, even those who may disagree on some issues because there is solid common ground in fighting against government overreach and for independence. And those who disagree with us on some issues, they're not our enemies, they're our sisters and brothers. They're our neighbors and friends."
"It's time we all stop preaching to the choir," she said, "and let's grow."