Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Sarah Palin said the Republican presidential contest remains “competitive” and urged conservative activists to mobilize to deny President Barack Obama a second term.
“Competition elevates our game,” Palin said. “We’ve got to keep the competition going. Let’s make sure this competition brings out the best in our party.”
The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate spoke at the 39th Conservative Political Action Conference, wrapping up the three-day event in Washington.
Her speech followed the gathering’s annual straw poll, in which Republican front-runner Mitt Romney captured 38 percent of the vote, beating Rick Santorum’s 31 percent.
Santorum, fresh off victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, had actively wooed CPAC activists, campaigning as the “conservative alternative” to Romney and touting his small- government ideals and opposition to abortion.
“Our candidate must be someone who must instinctively turn right,” Palin said. “It’s too late to teach it or spin it at this point.”
She urged the conservative activists to “stand united” behind the eventual nominee.
“We must work together to get him over the finish line,” she said. “This time next year we’ll have a true conservative in office.”
Romney has had difficulty connecting with the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Moments after Romney’s straw poll victory, movement leader Richard A. Viguerie criticized the former Massachusetts governor for describing himself as “severely conservative.”
“Romney has shown, once again, that he can mouth the words conservatives use, but he has no gut-level emotional connection with the conservative movement and its ideas and policies,” Viguerie said in a written statement.
Palin, Senator John McCain’s running mate against Democrat Obama in 2008, blamed the president for a failed economy and record government spending.
She borrowed rhetoric from Obama’s 2008 campaign to rally an audience heavy with cheering students.
“Oh yes, we can,” Palin said. “Hope and change. Yeah, you gotta hope things change.”
“We don’t want an economy built to last, we want an economy built to grow,” Palin said. “We certainly don’t want your economy built to last. We want your administration to end.”
The conference, hosted by the non-profit American Conservative Union Foundation, attracts Republican and conservative activists motivated by cutting taxes and ending abortion rights.
--Editors: Ann Hughey, Christian Thompson.
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