Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin
Monday, September 20, 2010

DES MOINES — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin drew the largest crowd in the decade-long history of the Iowa Republican Party’s Reagan Dinner Friday in Des Moines with a keynote speech full of haymakers for journalists and jabs at the Obama administration.

About 1,500 people attended the dinner at Hy-Vee Hall, raising about $100,000 for the GOP. The national and regional media turned out in full force, using two camera risers and a press area in the rear, resembling settings for the 2008 presidential race — and even some recent appearances by President Obama in Iowa.

Buoyed by the success of tea party-backed candidates like Christine O’Donnell, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, in Delaware endorsed by Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate used much of her 33-minute speech to assail the media and the GOP establishment.

“We have to hold the press accountable when we know they are making things up and telling untruths,” Palin said.

Then, in a finger-pointing tone directed at the media in the hall, Palin said journalists — “the lame-stream” media as she calls them — were disrespecting American military men and women by not reporting accurately.

“It is not fair to our troops willing to sacrifice all for your freedom, journalists,” Palin said.

Palin also sought to paint Obama as, in her words, “enemy-centric,” suggesting that diplomatic overtures the administration has made to challenging nations were foolish.

“There’s a disturbing pattern here of reaching out to sworn enemies while slighting our proven friends,” Palin said.

Early in her remarks Palin joked about a possible entrance into the 2012 presidential race.

She demurred on running outside in Des Moines before the speech, saying family members told her that might spark speculation about a White House bid.

“I guarantee you, If anybody spots you in the tennis shoes the headline is going to be in Vanity Fair, they’re going to say, ‘Palin, in Iowa, decides to run,’” Palin said, quoting her husband, Todd.

Palin said the Washington, D.C.-based GOP leadership will not lead the party to victory in November. It will be the grassroots, she said.

“It may take some renegades going rogue to get us there,” Palin said.

The message appealed to Dan Dirkx of rural Auburn, a conservative candidate for a western Iowa legislative seat who was in the audience in Des Moines Friday.

“She was definitely inspiring,” Dirkx said.

He particularly was drawn to her casting of the “uppity-ups in the Republican Party as not being the end-all.”

But Dirkx said he was disappointed that Palin’s handlers kept her distanced from the audience. He said U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, stayed after the event and eagerly and patiently visited with Iowa Republicans. Palin was whisked away behind a stage curtain.

“They keep her supply low to keep her demand up,” Dirkx said.

Dirkx said Palin has the appeal with the party to do well in Iowa should she seek the presidency.

“On top of that, she’s easy to look at,” Dirkx said. “A lot of this is so shallow when it really should be deep.”

Manning veterinarian Dr. Rexanne Struve, a registered independent who describes herself as “fiercely independent,” said she believes Palin is ready to be president.

“She will surround herself with the people to help her,” Struve said after the speech. “I think that she has learned a lot in the last couple of years.”