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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin addresses a Minnesota Republican Party rally for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Wednesday in Minneapolis. Associated Press

Rising stars Pawlenty and Palin share stage at rally in Minneapolis

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MINNEAPOLIS - Two rising Republicans shared the stage at a Minneapolis political rally on Wednesday, foreshadowing a potential race to the party's 2012 presidential nomination.

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who competed for the second spot on Sen. John McCain's presidential ticket two years ago, addressed more than 10,000 Republicans at the Minneapolis Convention Center to raise money for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Pawlenty and Palin both struck chords with throngs of conservatives. Their speeches were short and they stuck to a similar list of current Republican concerns, such as the recently passed health care reform bill and the growth of the federal government through bailouts.

This is a time, Pawlenty said, "where Wall Street gets a bailout, the poor get a handout and everybody else gets their wallet out."

Palin echoed the theme. The tea party hero said it is time for conservatives to "take our country back" and encouraged her supporters to "stand up and speak out for what is right."

Though neither mentioned the 2012 presidential race and Palin was not available for reporter questions, they are two of the early presidential contenders. And neither did anything to hurt that status while speaking in support of Bachmann, though many in the audience said it was too early to decide between the two.

Paul Hyland, a retired technology worker from Woodbury, was impressed with Palin's speech and has been intrigued with her since the 2008 race. At this point, he said that he probably would support Pawlenty if the two faced off, although he's more concerned about the 2010 elections right now.

Palin is the first of at least three potential presidential candidates other than Pawlenty to visit Minnesota.

Before the Bachmann event, Pawlenty noted that two former governors, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, plan to be in the state soon. Pawlenty and Romney will appear together at a Friday Freedom Foundation of Minnesota event.

Palin, the best known potential GOP candidate, appears with other potential candidates at a Southern Republican Leadership Conference meeting, which begins in New Orleans today. Pawlenty opted to remain in Minnesota, saying he needs to welcome home troops. Romney also passed on the event.

Pawlenty and Romney have done the most work to lay the groundwork for a 2012 Republican run. However, on Wednesday, Pawlenty again said he does not know what he will do once his second term as governor ends early next year.

Palin also has not committed to a White House try.

The ex-Alaska governor beat Pawlenty out as vice presidential candidate on the 2008 GOP ticket.

Many found Palin's nearly 20-minute speech impressive and inspiring. She has at least one strong supporter in 28-year-old Mellissa Vircks.

Vircks wore a T-shirt supporting gun rights to the rally and founded a club supporting the Second Amendment while studying at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

She and nine other friends and family members made the trek from Glenwood City, Wis. "to support the women of the party."

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