From the looks of the shrieking, camera-wielding mob that slowly crawled its way across the Marriott lobby this afternoon, we thought for a moment that Ronald Reagan himself had been reincarnated by CPAC scientists as this year's grand finale. But it was only Sarah Palin, still attracting the same vortex of attention — here, at least, among her people — as she ever did at the peak of her powers. This was before tonight's keynote speech, for which hundreds of people lined up hours in advance. So many people, in fact, that three overflow rooms were set up to accommodate them all. When Palin was introduced onstage at around 4:40 p.m., she was greeted by a loud, sustained standing ovation, a standing ovation that would be reprised many times.
The speech was so full of red meat that Palin may as well have just butchered a live cow onstage and tossed various bloody cuts into the crowd. It was all red meat — "the government rich," bureaucrats, "spread the wealth around," Solyndra, negotiating with the Taliban, cooperating with the Kremlin, EPA, lightbulbs, "crony capitalism," plutocrats, "community organizer," "lowering the sea levels," "Chicago politician," biased media. It was the Sarah Palin we all know and love, or despise, but nothing in between.
When it was over, Palin shook hands with a few lucky CPACers in the audience, while in the hallway outside of the ballroom, dozens of fans crowded around the doors which, over the course of the past few days, most speakers have emerged from after leaving the stage. Anxiously, they waited for Palin. And waited. The minutes ticked by. Eventually, they tried to coax Palin out by serenading her with the "Happy Birthday" song (Palin turns 48 today). It was just after they finished that a CPAC staffer informed them, "Sarah is gone. She left the building." Watch the video below, with a special cameo by my index finger.