DES MOINES, Iowa — After helping propel several upstart Republican contenders to recent primary victories, Sarah Palin said Friday that it's time for Republicans to unite now that primary season is over.
The former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee delivered a fiery speech to about 1,400 people at the Iowa Republican Party's Reagan dinner, the party's largest annual fundraiser. She noted that the general elections are less than two months away and stressed that Nov. 2 should be the focus of all Republicans.
"This is our movement, this is our moment," she said. "The time for unity is near. It is time to unite and make government work."
Her appearance in the state where precinct caucuses traditionally launch the presidential nominating season drew intense attention, but she found time to joke about it. If she laced up her running shoes, she said, the headlines would read: "Palin in Iowa, decides to run."
Palin has been coy about her presidential intentions and masterful at keeping her name in the news since she abruptly resigned as Alaska's governor in 2009. She's mixed political fundraisers and candidates' campaign events with speeches in which she commands fees as high as $100,000.
A string of Palin-endorsed candidates won during recent primary elections, including a double win Tuesday in Delaware and New Hampshire. On Friday, she stressed that Republicans needed to come together after a tough primary season.
"Did you ever lose big growing up?" she asked the crowd. "You lose some and you win some. For the sake of our country, America's primary voters have spoken and those internal power struggles need to be set aside."
She also attacked what she called a media establishment that wouldn't give conservatives a break.
"It's been made abundantly clear that those who hold some pretty common-sense views won't be heard," she said.
State Republican Chairman Matt Strawn said attendance at the annual dinner spiked after it was announced that Palin would be speaking at the event.
Palin is far from alone in taking early steps to court Iowa activists. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has made multiple trips to the state, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has put a staff member in Iowa and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania all have visits in the works.
President Barack Obama's spokesman said Friday that he believes Palin was testing the waters in Iowa for a possible presidential run. Press secretary Robert Gibbs said this is the time of year when potential candidates head to the politically important state to gauge the likelihood of a campaign.
Gibbs said it's clear that Palin can rally the very conservative elements of the Republican base and she may be "the most formidable force" in the GOP right now.