SEARCHLIGHT, Nev. - Sarah Palin told thousands of tea party activists assembled in the dusty Nevada desert yesterday that Sen. Harry Reid will have to explain his votes when he comes back to his hometown to campaign.
The wind whipped U.S. flags behind the former Alaska governor as she stood on a makeshift stage, holding a microphone and her notes and speaking to a cheering crowd. She told them Reid, fighting for re-election, is "gambling away our future" and that "someone needs to tell him this is not a crapshoot."
About 7,000 people streamed into tiny Searchlight, a former mining town 60 miles south of Las Vegas, bringing American flags, "Don't Tread on Me" signs and outspoken anger toward Reid, President Barack Obama and the health care overhaul.
A string of polls has shown Reid is vulnerable in politically moderate Nevada after pushing Obama's agenda in Congress. His standing has also been hurt by Nevada's double-digit unemployment and record foreclosure and bankruptcy rates.
The Searchlight native responded with sarcasm to the large crowd gathered in the hardscrabble town of about 1,000 he grew up in. "I'm happy so many people came to see my hometown of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money, especially in these tough economic times," Reid said through his Senate campaign. "This election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachuted in for one day to have a tea party."
Yesterday's rally kicked off a 42-city bus tour that ends in Washington on April 15, tax day. It's been called a conservative Woodstock and takes place just days after the historic health care vote that ushered in near-universal medical coverage and divided Congress and the nation.