Washington, DC -- It wasn't speeches by Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich that generated the most enthusiasm at CPAC 2012.
That honor would go to former Alaska governor and Republican vice president nominee Sarah Palin, who stole the conservative summit with a rousing speech on Saturday.
Palin mania was palpable throughout the Marriott Wardman Park hotel. Earlier in the day hundreds of attendees swarmed Palin for photographs and an opportunity to get a glimpse at one of the most famous conservative women in the United States.
Elsewhere thousands of CPACers waited in line to try to get into the main ballroom where she would be speaking. There was so much interest in her speech, that the conference's organizers opened up three overflow rooms with project televisions to appease her zealous following.
It was an incredibly impressive showing given that Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum didn't get near the amount of attention when they spoke on Friday. It also directly went against the narrative that she has become irrelevant within the Republican Party after refusing to run for President and instead becoming a reality television star.
Even fellow journalists mentioned off-hand that they couldn't understand why Palin was generating the amount of interest she was at CPAC. Journalists might not quite understand the appeal of Palin, but it was clear on Saturday that she is still highly influential within the conservative base.
I think she's still relevant, Corina Cappabianca, the president of the College Republicans at New York University said. People like her ability to say what she feels without too much of a filter.
On Saturday that included joking about President Obama's rendition of Let's Stay Together and boiling down his job plan of Winning the Future down to WTF, an acronym known as what the f---.
She didn't endorse any of the primary Republican presidential candidates, but told the crowd that next year there will be a true conservative in the Oval Office that will be worthy of our troops.
It is messages like that one that seem to really resonate with conservatives much more so than anything Romney or the other candidates expressed the previous day. She received 10 standing ovations, according to Gawker, but one of the most surreal moments was when she led a frenzied crowd into chanting USA at a few protesters at the back of the ballroom.
A few Occupy protesters began to Mic check during Palin's speech, but were quickly drowned out by thousands of conservatives enthusiastically yelling USA! USA! USA!
After the ordeal, Palin smiled and said, See you just won.
Palin isn't running for any public office at this juncture, but she also just won something. She showed that she is still highly influential within her base and can put together a smart speech when needed.
She gave conservatives what they wanted and proved to be the right end to the summit.
I thought Sarah Palin was the perfect end to the conference, Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said after the speech. She added the right touch and frankly it was one of the best speeches I've heard her give.
Those outside of the conservative bubble might not understand her appeal, but if CPAC 2012 taught us anything it is that Sarah Palin is still a force to be reckoned with and will likely have a big impact within the base for years to come.