MINNEAPOLIS — In a raucous rally before thousands of cheering supporters, Republicans Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann delivered a stinging critique Wednesday of Congress and told the crowd to replace it with one focused on undoing President Obama's agenda.
That, they said, starts with booting out Democrats in November and sending Republicans like Bachmann back to the U.S. House.
"What do you say, Minnesota? Will you do the rest of the nation a favor and re-elect Michele Bachmann?" Palin asked. "We have so much work to do to get our country back on track."
The spirited event featuring the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee helped kickoff Bachmann's 2010 re-election campaign as the two-term congresswoman faces what is expected to be a tough, expensive race against Democrats.
The Minnesota Republican Party gave away more than 10,000 tickets to party faithful for the rally — "Take that, liberals!" Bachmann crowed from the stage — in exchange for a pledge to volunteer six hours for the GOP between now and the election.
$10,000 for a picture
Bachmann, 54, used Palin's star power to stir up support — and money. Both women were to attend a $500-a-plate dinner fundraiser in Minneapolis later Wednesday, with hundreds of guests expected. People who donate $10,000 get to take a picture with the two.
The women, both feisty television darlings known to take public jabs at opponents, played up their similarities inside a spacious Minneapolis Convention Center auditorium. They called for a federal government focused on lower taxes and less spending during.
Bachmann promised that her first priority, if Republicans reclaim a congressional majority, would be to repeal the Democratic health care bill passed last month.
"You better believe it, baby," Bachmann said. "Repeal is what this girl is going to be all about after November."
Palin praised Bachmann for telling Democrats to start over or kill the health care bill.
"Now it is Michele that is leading the charge to replace this thing," Palin said.
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Thousands streamed into the convention hall in the hours before the rally started, sporting buttons that read "Hands off my Healthcare" and "Change: I'd Like Mine Back."
"I came because I wanted to hear them without the media filter," said Andrew Peterson, 27, the co-owner of an excavating company in Lindstrom.
Offer of psychiatric help
A small group of peace protesters set up camp across the street from the convention hall. Melissa Hill, 31, brandished a sign offering psychiatric help because, she said, "I just don't know what these people are thinking."
Across town, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison told about 200 people at a state Capitol union rally to help elect state Sen. Tarryl Clark, the party-endorsed candidate for Bachmann's seat. Clark will face Dr. Maureen Reed in the Democratic primary election in August.
"If the congresswoman from the 6th District was not scared to death of Sen. Tarryl Clark, she wouldn't bring Palin here at all," Ellison said. "It is a sign of our strength."
But in the Minneapolis convention hall, Bachmann and Palin fans expressed little worry. Jennifer Pendleton, 48, of Minneapolis, said she's concerned that the health care overhaul could negatively affect her job as a medical sales rep.
Pendleton said she considers herself a conservative more than a faithful Republican, but was unabashed in her admiration of Bachmann and Palin.
"I can't figure out why so many people, so many women don't like them," Pendleton said. "Maybe it's threatening to them."
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