Indianola, Iowa (CNN) - Sarah Palin took sharp aim at President Barack Obama and at least one of her potential Republican rivals Saturday at a rain-soaked tea party rally in Iowa, the state that will open the GOP nomination fight early next year.
The former Alaska governor, speaking on the third anniversary of the Republican National Convention speech that transformed her into a conservative darling and global celebrity, did not announce a presidential campaign of her own.
But with a flurry of named and unnamed attacks against the president and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP front-runner, Palin aggressively sought to define herself as a populist tea party outsider who would run against “the permanent political class” and “good ole boy politics as usual.”
“The status quo is no longer an option,” she declared to roughly 2,000 admiring supporters, some of whom traveled from as far as San Diego, Dallas and New Orleans for the rally.
Palin urged tea party activists to fight against President Obama and the “special interests” in Washington until “the permanent political class” is thrown out of power.
And for the first time, Palin outlined the makings of a five-point recovery plan for the nation’s flagging economy, albeit in very broad strokes.
Calling it a “pro-working man’s plan,” Palin rattled off a series of familiar and somewhat vague free-market proposals, such as repealing the Obama health care law, rolling back federal regulations, boosting domestic energy production and transferring more spending authority to state capitals.
But for a Republican who has been accused of offering little more than platitudes in the public arena, she did veer into specifics.
Palin, who famously raised taxes on oil industry while governor, proposed eliminating all corporate income taxes, claiming that lost revenue would be balanced out by closing corporate loopholes in the federal tax code.
“This is how we break the back of crony capitalism,” she said, sounding very much like the maverick politician who made a name for herself in Alaska by taking on an entrenched and sometimes corrupt Republican political class that was in cahoots with the oil and gas industry.
It was that theme of “crony capitalism” that led her into a series of barely veiled criticisms of Perry, who would be one of Palin’s most direct rivals in the race if she decides to run.
Palin allies had hinted to reporters before the speech that she would draw a stark contrast between her record and that of Perry, an impressive fund-raiser who has long been criticized by political foes of rewarding his campaign donors and political allies with government contracts and posts.
She did not mention Perry by name, but it was clear who was on her mind when she dressed down the current Republican field and questioned their willingness to return government power to the people.
“Some GOP candidates, they also raise mammoth amounts of cash,” she said. “We need ask them, too: What, if anything, do their donors expect from their investments? We need to know this because our country can’t afford more trillion-dollar thank you notes to campaign backers.”
Palin, who is expected to make a final decision about the race by October, told the crowd, “You must vet a candidate’s record.”
“Our challenge is not just to replace Obama in 2012, but the real challenge is, who and what we will replace him with?” she asked. “Because it’s not enough to just change up the uniform. If we don’t change the team and the game plan, we won’t change the country.”
Speaking briefly to reporters on a rope line after leaving the stage, Palin would not say whether her comments were directed at Perry.
“I want all of our GOP candidates to take the opportunity to kill corporate capitalism that is leading to this cronyism that is killing our economy,” Palin said. “They all have an opportunity to speak out against it. That’s what I want them to do.”
In her speech, she seemed as fed up with her own party as she is with Democrats.
She chided GOP candidates for delivering conservatives rhetoric on the campaign trail but failing to live up to those promises in Washington.
Palin also mocked Republicans who have spoken ill of the tea party movement, namely those who label tea partiers “hobbits.”
That was a jab plainly directed at the man who plucked Palin from obscurity and placed her on the 2008 presidential ticket: Arizona Sen. John McCain, who criticized “tea party hobbits” in a Senate floor speech during the debt ceiling debate.
Thunderstorms moved through Indianola in the hours before the much-anticipated event, organized by a newly formed group called “Tea Party of America,” sending drenched Palin supporters running for cover.
But the rain clouds parted for a time when Palin took the stage, drawing rally-goers out of their cars and back to the event site for the speech. Her speech was organized by a newly formed group called Tea Party of America.
Palin now heads to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, where she will headline a rally sponsored by the Tea Party Express.