Sarah Palin at CPAC: The door is open ...

In a CPAC keynote speech filled with applause lines and momentarily interrupted by hecklers, Sarah Palin refrained from endorsing any of the current GOP presidential candidates and instead repeated her calls for a long primary.

“We’ve all heard we have to wrap it up, but in America, we believe competition leads to victory,” she said.

At the same time, she urged conservatives to stick together no matter what.

“We’re not red and blue Americans; we’re red, white and blue — and, President Obama, we are through with you,” she said. (It sounded a little like a Valentine’s Day card in reverse.)

She hit the unity theme throughout, at one point saying: “The left may smear our records or attack our families [but] we can’t let the left divide the next campaign. We must stand together as conservatives. For the sake of our country, we must stand united, no matter who our nominee is.”

Her speech itself furnished an immediate example of turning liberal enmity into conservative unity. When a smattering of Occupiers chanted, “We are the 99 percent,” the CPAC audience shouted them down with “USA! USA! USA!” — and, shortly thereafter, “Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!”

The former Alaska governor — who frequently appears on national TV before a natural background that looks pretty remote from D.C. — really hit her stride midspeech as she denounced “the permanent political class” and knocked the District.

“Often, politicians come to D.C. denouncing it, but, after a year, they decide it’s not a cesspool, but a hot tub,” she said to laughter.

It’s up to voters to drain the jacuzzi, she said, before she declared that the grassroots will do just that — by sending more Tea Partiers to Congress.

“This time, Establishment,” she said (and I’m pretty sure she looked sternly over her glasses at just that moment), “we expect them to get leadership positions in Congress.”

Her closing sentiment? “The door is open.” It’s hard not to find that sentence provocative — especially given that she repeated it throughout the speech — but she seemed to have meant it in the sense that the door is open to defeat Barack Obama and to take back the nation. The crowd considered the alternate meaning, too, though, to judge by chants of “Run, Sarah, run!”  Who knows what might happen before this long primary ends?

At any rate, Palin’s unrivaled ability to rally a crowd was definitely on display; she drew more standing ovations than at least one gal could count. It was red meat to the base — a reiteration that conservatives stand on the shoulders of the Founders, that we have solutions to the fiscal problems that face our nation, that we have a better jobs plan than the president (“It’s called the free market!”), that we can achieve energy independence, etc., etc., etc. — and the audience loved it.

Update: Video courtesy of The Right Scoop! Forget to tip my hat to the hard-working folks there, and I apologize for that.