Last night, I flew down to Chicago to attend Sarah Palin speech staged by WIND, our Salem Radio affiliate in the city. Palin spoke for about 50 minutes to a highly enthusiastic crowd of more than 4500 conservatives, offering a range of subjects but delivering a single message: get involved. Topics ranged from the local high-school girls basketball team that has been denied a trip to the national championships because of a boycott of Arizona to the Chicago Blackhawks — and a lot of emphasis on local corruption and the need to take action to rid the city of it. Palin encouraged her audience to learn that reform is possible from the grassroots efforts of her own political career, starting off as a concerned mom on the school board to her crusading clean-government campaign in state offices.
Governor Palin didn’t eschew the political, either. She talked about the need to find and support conservative candidates. She emphasized her support of contested primaries repeatedly, telling conservatives that primaries allow candidates to “duke it out — peacefully, of course,” Palin emphasized to laughter. But she also warned about splintering the party in the general election. “We need to take the gavel from Harry and Nancy,” Palin told the audience, and restated it during her Q&A later in the evening.
To that end, Palin addressed the issue of her endorsement of Carly Fiorina during her speech. Without mentioning Fiorina by name, Palin defended the California Senate candidate as “pro-life, pro-business,” and underscored Fiorina’s conservative credentials. Activists need to back the “best conservatives we can elect,” Palin said, and said that activists have to have some pragmatism about electability. Palin took a more veiled shot at Tom Campbell by noting that Fiorina was a better conservative choice than some of the alternatives.
She also challenged the notion of RINOs in her speech, which may also have surprised some in the audience. While the name “Mark Kirk!” got yelled repeatedly, Palin warned about purity purges in the Republican Party, especially in this midterm cycle. Palin admitted that RINOs exist but argued that they’re more rare than people think — and to remember that the goal is to produce conservative leadership in Congress and eventually in the White House. That won’t happen, Palin reminded people more than once, while Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi control the agenda.
The crowd was highly receptive to the entire speech, although one could hear a little grumbling about RINOs during Palin’s argument. It was an effective rally speech, but also a practical defense of her efforts and endorsements in this campaign season. This speech differed from her address at the SRLC in that Palin stayed away from policy and focused on themes and encouragement. It was entertaining enough that two of the local news stations that covered it underestimated the time Palin spoke by almost half, and the WIND audience would easily have remained for twice more.
Addendum: Before the speech, I met Governor Palin briefly in the VIP reception – to which I arrived late after a series of delays at the airport that forced me to change in the restroom into my dress clothes. The photographer took our picture as I introduced myself to her, and the Governor graciously responded, “You do good work there!”
I did take video of the entire speech, but the Internet connection in my hotel won’t support the uploads. I’ll have it by the weekend, but C. Steven Tucker actually got a better angle and a closer shot. Visit his YouTube channel for the various chapters of the speech. Here is Part 1: