Union Supporters Boo Sarah Palin At Wis. Appearance

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Conservative leaders and Republican presidential hopefuls headlined Tea Party rallies across the country over the weekend. Sarah Palin was at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, a site that's been ground zero in the supercharged political fight between unions and Republican Gov. Scott Walker.


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Mary Louise Kelly, in for Steve Inskeep.

Members of Congress are home in their districts for the two-week spring recess. But politics goes on - in this case, presidential politics. Over the weekend, a couple of potential Republican candidates were appealing to voters. Both have some experience in reality TV. First, Sarah Palin. She addressed a Tea Party rally in Madison, Wisconsin, site of the battle between unions and Republican Governor Scott Walker.

As Wisconsin Public Radio's Shawn Johnson reports, Palin said Republicans in Washington could use a little of Walker's courage.

SHAWN JOHNSON: This was not an altogether friendly crowd for Sarah Palin. While Tea Party supporters cheered Palin up front, they were flanked on three sides by union supporters who booed throughout her speech. But Palin told the crowd she was here because it was where the battle for the country is being fought.

(Soundbite of booing)

Ms. SARAH PALIN (Former Republican Governor, Alaska): This is where the line has been drawn in the sand, and I am proud to stand with you today in solidarity.

JOHNSON: Palin says Governor Scott Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature deserve credit for standing up to public employee unions and curbing their bargaining rights.

Ms. PALIN: That's courage, and that's integrity.

(Soundbite of booing)

Ms. PALIN: And, you know, that's something that's sorely missing in the Beltway today.

JOHNSON: Sarah Palin attacked President Obama for what she labeled his big government agenda. But she saved some of her sharpest words for Republican leaders, blasting them for reaching a deal with the president to cut $38 billion in spending.

(Soundbite of booing)

Ms. PALIN: That is not courage. That's capitulation.

JOHNSON: Rebecca Congo of Madison was among the counter-protesters chanting: Go Home, Sarah. While Tea Party supporters cheered Palin on, Congo called her an outside agitator.

Ms. REBECCA CONGO: I don't really understand why she was here. This is kind of our issue, not Alaska's issue.

JOHNSON: This rally was at the site of those held by union supporters, drawing as many as 100,000 people. Saturday's crowd to both cheer and boo Sarah Palin was as vocal, but much smaller.

For NPR News, I'm Shawn Johnson in Madison.

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