RENO, Nev. (AP) - Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appealed to Nevadans' patriotism and Western, rural work ethic Monday night to help swing the election as she neared the end of a daylong dash through five contested states.
Joined by a pair of professional bull riders at the Reno Livestock Events Center, Palin also touted Republican presidential John McCain's support for the U.S. military, gun rights and opposition to abortion while describing Democrat Barack Obama's campaign as part of the "far, far left wing of the Democrat Party ... that is preparing to take over the entire federal government."
"Sen. Obama has an ideological commitment to higher taxes," she said. "It is not mean spirited and not negative campaigning to call someone out on their record, their plans and their associations."
"You can do the math, Nevada. Or just go with your gut. Either way, Obama is for bigger government and he is going to raise your taxes."
In a speech that was followed by one last appearance later Monday night in Elko, the Alaska governor told more than 3,500 people at the Reno rally that they "know what hard work feels like."
"It is so great to be back in the state of Nevada in these final hours on the campaign trail with some of the most important people in my world. Nevada, are you ready to help us carry your state to victory?" Palin said to loud cheers. "Let's get out there and win this for America."
In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney also gave an election eve speech in Nevada at Sparks High School. Nevada, with its five electoral votes, has sided with Republicans eight of the last 10 presidential elections with Democrat Bill Clinton the exception both times.
But after months of being locked in a dead heat, polls show McCain slipping further behind Obama in the Silver State. An Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday showed Obama with a 12-percentage point lead over McCain, the Democrat's widest lead yet. To make things worse for the Arizona senator, Democrats outpaced Republicans at the polls in early voting.
More than 3,000 people turned out at Elko High School to see Palin's speech that didn't start until 11:15 p.m. Because the gym could hold only about 2,700, hundreds more watched on a big screen TV set up on the football field. Palin said that for so many people to turn out at such an hour with so much on the line made it clear Elko residents represented the "Best of America."
In a line he used at both rallies, Palin's father, Chuck Heath, said he taught his daughter many years ago "how to field dress a moose."
"But tomorrow I want you to see her field dress a donkey," he said.
At the Reno rally, the crowd interrupted the speech several times with chants of "Sarah, Sarah," "USA, USA" and "Drill Baby Drill" - a reference to the GOP ticket's support for more oil and gas drilling in the U.S. and offshore.
"You bet we will drill, baby, drill. And we will mine, baby, mine," she said in the largest gold mining state in the nation.
Palin also touted the GOP ticket's belief that "every innocent life counts" and warned that Obama would "retreat from wars that are almost won."
McCain, who was a POW in Vietnam, "has been tested," she said. "He will not wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists."
Palin also had campaign stops Monday in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa and Colorado.
She drew a crowd estimated by state police at more than 17,000 to the steps of the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo., which is located in the Republican-leaning rural center of the state. She strode down the Capitol steps in blue jeans, clapped in the background to country music singer Hank Williams Jr. and exited as "Redneck Woman" played over loudspeakers dangling from cranes.
The theme continued in Reno, where pro bull riders Justin McBride of Elk City, Okla., a two-time world champion, and Travis Briscoe of Edgewood, N.M., signed autographs before the rally.
A four-piece band in cowboy hats played country western tunes to warm up the crowd. They also played Lynard Skynard's "Sweet Home
Alabama," but changed the lyrics by substituting Palin's home state for Alabama.
Lynn Heller, the wife of Nevada Republican Rep. Dean Heller, sang the national anthem and children waved small American flags and held up signs that read "Country First" in the rally strong on patriotism - including twice singing the anthem - as well as Western values.
"Do you want a president that won't wear a flag pin on their pin?" State Assemblyman James Settlemyer, a Washoe County Republican asked before Palin took the stage.
"No!" the crowd answered.
Earlier, Monica Jaye, a broadcaster on a conservative Reno radio station, complained about news coverage of Obama, saying "the liberal media won't go after their darling." She said she is proud to be a mom, which she described as the best job in the world and predicted Palin would "be the mom to this entire country."
Longtime state Senate Republican Leader Bill Raggio of Reno asked if the crowd wanted to vote for free enterprise, limited government and fiscal responsibility, or "are you going to vote for hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes so we can create a socialist society?"
The answer was clear.
"The mainstream media is telling us that this election is over? Is it over?" he asked.
"No!" the crowd screamed.
Dean Heller, who enjoyed a gain in the polls in his re-election bid against repeat Democratic challenger Jill Derby when he voted
against the $700 economic bailout plan Congress passed, asked the
crowd, "Do you guys still think this bailout stinks?" They did.
"I agree with you. I'll tell you what else would stink: President Obama. President Obama would try to raise your taxes," Heller said. He said Obama would bankrupt the coal industry, mining and the casino industry as well as "bankrupt American families."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)