SEARCHLIGHT, Nev. -- Sarah Palin told thousands of tea party activists assembled in the dusty Nevada desert Saturday that Sen. Harry Reid will have to explain his votes when he comes back to his hometown to campaign.
The wind whipped U.S. flags behind the former Alaska governor as she stood on a makeshift stage, holding a microphone and her notes and speaking to a cheering crowd. She told them Reid, fighting for re-election, is ''gambling away our future.''
''Someone needs to tell him, this is not a crapshoot,'' Palin said.
About 7,000 people streamed into tiny Searchlight, a former mining town 60 miles south of Las Vegas, bringing American flags, ''Don't Tread on Me'' signs and outspoken anger toward Reid, President Barack Obama and the health care overhaul.
Palin told them the big-government, big-debt spending spree of the Senate majority leader, Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is over.
''You're fired!'' Palin said.
A string of polls has shown Reid is vulnerable in politically moderate Nevada after pushing Obama's agenda in Congress. His standing has also been hurt by Nevada's double-digit unemployment and record foreclosure and bankruptcy rates.
The Searchlight native responded with sarcasm to the large crowd gathered in the hardscrabble town of about 1,000 he grew up in.
''I'm happy so many people came to see my hometown of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money, especially in these tough economic times,'' Reid said Saturday in a statement released through his Senate campaign. ''This election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachuted in for one day to have a tea party.''
Traffic on a highway leading into the town was backed up more than two miles Saturday afternoon as people gathered for the rally, which kicks off a 42-city bus tour that ends in Washington on April 15, tax day.
It's been called a conservative Woodstock, and takes place just days after the historic health care vote that ushered in near-universal medical coverage and divided Congress and the nation. The vote was followed by reports of threats and vandalism aimed at some Washington lawmakers, mostly Democrats who supported the new law.
Conservative columnist Andrew Breitbart disputed accounts that tea party activists in Washington shouted racial epithets at black members of Congress amid the health care debate, although he didn't provide any evidence.
''I know you're not a racist group,'' he told the crowd.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, appeared after spending Friday and Saturday morning campaigning for Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who led the 2008 ticket.
Now a Fox News analyst and potential 2012 presidential candidate, Palin faced criticism after posting a map on her Facebook page that had circles and cross hairs over 20 Democratic districts. She also sent a tweet saying, ''Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!''
She said Saturday she wasn't inciting violence, just trying to inspire people to get involved.