YAKIMA -- Clint Didier smiled, talking about his endorsement from Sarah Palin.
Didier, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in town to share a campaign rally with Republican state House candidate Michele Strobel, has followed races elsewhere in the country and seen how the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate's blessing has helped others. He believes it could help him upset GOP favorite Dino Rossi, who, like Didier, is looking to oust three-term incumbent Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
"It's all-important," the Eltopia farmer and former NFL tight end said during an interview before this week's rally. "(Palin) is one of the leaders of this country right now. Why? I believe it radiates from her, herself. ... She knows what it takes to get this country back."
"Getting this country back," which in this context was meant as a rallying cry against political liberalism, was a major theme of the evening. So was God.
"Someone came up to me and said this isn't like a political gathering," Strobel told the crowd of 200 during her speech, which followed Didier's. "I said, 'Oh, no, no, no. I make it more like church.' "
A vocal quartet from Heartland Bible Baptist College, who sang hymns during the hors d'oeuvre portion of the event only added to that atmosphere, as did the evening's host, the Rev. Dave Brown of Yakima Bible Baptist Church.
"It only takes one generation to go back to a heathen nation," Brown warned the crowd, urging them to vote for Didier and Strobel.
Strobel, a pastor's wife and cosmetics company owner from Selah, faces incumbent Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, and Yakima attorney Scott Brumback, a Democrat, for Johnson's seat in the state House.
Strobel's and Didier's speeches held close to the populist, anti-incumbent narrative that's been rising throughout national and local politics since the beginnings of the tea party movement early last year. The idea, they said, is that "regular folks" need to awake from complacency and retake control of the country in the wake of President Obama's election.
"I'm one of the worst people about that," Didier told the crowd. "I was happy in my own little world out there."
The answer, he believes, is an across-the-board deregulation of business, stringent enforcement of immigration laws and a halt to environmental policies such as cap and trade. He also argued in favor of expanded offshore drilling, a position he acknowledged is increasingly unpopular because of the ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.