WASHINGTON – “Can we defeat Barack Obama in 2012?” asked former Republican governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, keynote speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Yes, we can!” she insisted to a standing ovation, echoing a central Barack Obama 2008 presidential campaign slogan.

Palin brought the CPAC convention to a rousing close today with a well-crafted attack on the big-government policies of Barack Obama.

“We are not red and blue Americans, we are red, white and blue Americans,” Palin proclaimed, praising the impact of the tea party on the Republican Party.

“Instead of transforming America as he promised, Barack Obama has ‘mucked it up,'” Palin proclaimed to a packed and cheering CPAC auditorium.

“Hope and change,” she said, echoing Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan. “Oh yeah, you have got to hope it is going to change.”

The CPAC audience responded by standing and shouting, “USA! USA!” and ,”Sarah! Sarah!”

Palin called upon CPAC to come together as conservative opponents to Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Characterizing a second Obama term as “tax and overspend,” Palin said this was a future Republicans would not accept.

“Mr. President, we want your administration to end!” she exhorted the CPAC conservatives. “Never has there been such a gaping disconnect between how Barack Obama sees the ‘state of the union’ and how ‘we the people’ see the ‘state of the union.'”

She attacked Obama budget deficits saying, “We shouldn’t have to spend our lives as Americans working so hard so government can spend so easy.”

She earned strong applause saying Republicans have an economic plan “and it’s called the free market.”

Palin took Obama to task for saying small town people “cling to their God and their guns.”

“You keep the change, Barack Obama,” she replied. “We’ll keep our God, our guns and our Constitution.”

She proclaimed Americans will rise up to defend First Amendment rights to religious freedom and Second Amendment rights to bear arms.

She attacked Obamacare for demanding faith-based health providers must offer contraceptive and abortion services.

“We believe it’s time to return power to the people,” she insisted. “That’s where the Founders placed the power, and that’s where we should place it.”

Palin took the Obama administration to task for negotiating with the Taliban and standing by watching as Iran develops nuclear weapons, while reducing the size of the U.S. military.

She drew a standing ovation for demanding, “The first and foremost obligation of the president of the United States is national defense, and we will never apologize for a free world. We must be home of the brave, just as our ancestors fought and died to defend this land of the free.”

Palin playfully suggested that Obama would have plenty of time to mingle with the people, after his first term failed to “stem back the rise of the oceans” and begin a new era of economic prosperity, as Obama promised to do, when running for president in 2008.

Palin asked when was the last time the Environmental Protection Agency prevented Obama from building a new government building as aggressively as it prevents the development of U.S. domestic energy resources.

She declared that under Obama, Washington, D.C., is now the urban area with highest per-capita income in the nation, as Obama expands the federal workforce and the Capital “mints millionaires overnight.”

“This Washington is the place where men and women arrive to enrich themselves,” she charged, insisting that “crony capitalism” had become under Obama the way the Washington-based power elite share the wealth with their political friends.

“Tea-party patriots rose up in 2010 and said, ‘We don’t want big-government and we won’t pay for it,'” Palin proclaimed. “Tea-party patriots are alive and well, and this time we expect them to get leadership positions in the Congress.”

She reminded the CPAC audience that in the final analysis, Obama is a Chicago-style politician who brought to Washington with him the graft and corruption for which Chicago is known.

She defended the GOP presidential primary contest, claiming the competition strengthens the Republican Party for victory in November.

“For the sake of our country, we must stand united – whoever our nominee is,” she encouraged a CPAC audience that responded with yet another in a series of standing ovations.

“Whoever the GOP presidential nominee is, that person will be deserving of our troops,” she promised. “Our vision is as bold, and strong, and free as the country we love. It’s a vision of liberty and empowerment, and we will fight to preserve it.”

CPAC straw poll results

But who might that nominee be?

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the Washington Times/CPAC presidential straw poll, edging out former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania as second choice.

Romney won 38 percent of the straw poll, with 3,408 votes cast by activists attending CPAC, versus 31 percent for Santorum, 15 percent for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, with 12 percent.

Ron Paul was the winner of the CPAC presidential straw poll in the previous two years.

The winner of CPAC straw poll for vice president was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, despite continuing concerns that Rubio is not eligible for president as a natural born citizen under Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution because both his parents were yet Cuban citizens when he was born.

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