EUGENE, Ore. — Sarah Palin praised Republicans at a fundraising dinner in a liberal-leaning Oregon town for having the boldness to invite her to speak Friday evening.
The former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate was the headliner for the Lane County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner in Eugene. She spoke as about 150 demonstrators gathered peacefully outside the fundraiser.
Home to the University of Oregon, Eugene is a Democratic stronghold in a blue state, and Lane County registers nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans. But local GOP officials invited Palin anyway to rally the GOP faithful.
“You guys are so bold to have invited us,” she said. “We are of the same ilk.”
Praising the spirit of the tea party movement, Palin exhorted local Republicans to run for office to take the country back from Democrats.
“Many of us are saying we’ve had enough, and it’s time to take it back and put government back on the side of the people,” she said to applause from about 800 people who paid $250 apiece to hear her speak, and others in an overflow room where the speech was on video.
Reporters were prohibited from photographing or recording Palin, and watched her speech by video feed in a separate room.
Palin repeated familiar themes about drilling for oil in the United States rather than relying on foreign countries, the need to pay down the national debt and repealing the new health care law, which she called Obamacare.
“We have to make sure this Obamacare is short-lived or it will put us on this path toward insolvency,” she said.
“To borrow their slogan, ‘Yes, we can.’ That’s no way to lead a country. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. We say, ‘Oh no you don’t.’ We’re going to take it back.”
Palin flew to Eugene from Tennessee, where she testified earlier in the day in the trial of a 22-year-old man accused of hacking her e-mail account during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Demonstrations outside the hotel where Palin spoke were more mocking than angry.
Two protesters wore ball caps with straws glued on, a reference to reports that Palin’s speaking contract stipulated she have two bottles of still water with bent straws at the podium.
The crowd peaked at about 150 people, including Palin look-alike Robby West, a soccer- volleyball- and cross country-mom from St. Helens, Ore., dressed in white blouse and black pencil skirt.
“Since she was in Eugene, I thought I’d see what was going on and support Barack Obama,” West said before stopping to pose for another photo with laughing demonstrators. “She’s the impostor, not me. This is how I look. Swear.”
Among the Palin fans attending the dinner was Ginger Newman of Eugene.
“She’d get my vote now,” she said. “My friends say she hasn’t any experience, but I say, ‘Let her get some experience.”’