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Palin hits the trail for McCain

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Palin: McCain's 'gonna win'
  • "Everybody here ... we are all part of that Tea Party movement," Palin says
  • Sarah Palin, John McCain make first joint appearance since conceding 2008 election
  • McCain faces primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth
  • Hayworth calls Palin appearance "very understandable level of gratitude"

(CNN) -- Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke Friday at a rally for her former running mate, Sen. John McCain, urging voters to support the senator in his re-election bid in Arizona.

The rally, in Tucson, Arizona, was their first joint public appearance since McCain conceded the 2008 presidential election.

McCain faces a primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth and has come under criticism for being too moderate on a variety of issues, including immigration. Several leading Tea Party activists in Arizona have decided not to endorse McCain or Hayworth, criticizing both of their records while serving in Congress.

But some national Tea Party members came out this week in support of Hayworth. While several said they were not upset with Palin's endorsement of McCain, a few said they were disappointed.

The enthusiastic crowd greeted Palin with shouts of "Sarah, Sarah," as she, her husband, Todd, and McCain took the stage.

Video: Can Palin save McCain's job?

"Everybody here, supporting John McCain, we are all part of that Tea Party movement," Palin said. "I think he's gonna win this one," she said. "Before there were protests on Main Street and marches on Capitol Hill, there was the maverick of the Senate, fighting for us."

Palin railed against the health care legislation, saying that McCain fought against "Obamacare." And McCain, speaking after Palin, said the bill will be repealed.

"It is historic that it is also the first time that on a pure partisan basis a major piece of legislation has been passed and it is going to be historic because it is going to be repealed and replaced," he said. "And it is going to be done soon."

Palin's remarks at the rally were preceded by an op-ed piece in Friday's Arizona Republic. She wrote that she respected McCain long before she was his running mate, a theme she reiterated in her public appearance.

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"I admired his tireless crusade against the old pork-barrel-spending, earmarking-backroom-dealing ways of D.C. that make a whole lot of us pretty ill," she said.

After a town hall meeting on Thursday night attended by about 120 people, Hayworth downplayed the significance of Palin's visit.

"I think what we are seeing from the governor is a very understandable level of gratitude. After all, it was John who gave her entrée to the national stage. We all understand gratitude. That is fine," he said.

The campaign appearance comes as Palin is being criticized for a fundraising appeal she posted on her Facebook page with what looked like crosshairs marking the districts of House members who voted for health care reform. She asked for donations to her political action committee to help defeat 17 congressmen who voted yes and who are running for re-election.

In a Twitter message earlier in the week Palin said "Don't Retreat-Instead, RELOAD!" urging supporters to keep up the fight on the issue.

The messages came as members of Congress were reporting threats in retaliation to their votes on health care reform.

However, McCain told CNN's "John King, USA" on Thursday that Palin's language was not over the top.

"The rhetoric that we use in everyday language about political campaigns -- battleground states, it's going to be a war -- all of those are things that we have used for years and years. They are in the crosshairs."

From Arizona, Palin heads to Searchlight, Nevada, to be the keynote speaker Saturday for the kickoff rally of the Tea Party Express cross-country caravan to protest big government spending.

CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.