Associated Press

NEW EGYPT, N.J. (AP) _ Former vice presidential candidate and Sarah Palin of Alaska waded into New Jersey’s U.S. Senate race on Saturday, telling a crowd that the “eyes of America” are on the state.

Palin, backed by the tea party, headlined a rally for Republican candidate Steve Lonegan at the New Egypt Speedway. Lonegan faces Newark Mayor and Democratic candidate Cory Booker in Wednesday’s election.

Booker leads Lonegan in polls by double digits. Yet, national Republicans have decided to pour time and resources into the race in its waning days.

Palin told the crowd, estimated at 2,000 by the tea party, that Lonegan would fight against the nation’s health care law and stand with tea party Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas. Palin told attendees to go out and vote and defy the fallacy that a conservative tea party candidate cannot win in Democratic-leaning New Jersey.

“You have the momentum with Steve’s campaign,” Palin said. “The rest of the country knows.”

The former Alaska governor said she plans to go to Washington on Sunday to protest how politicians used “your hard-earned tax money to barricade the memorials” during the federal government shutdown. She called it a “slimdown,” saying it only halted a small part of the “bloated” government.

Lonegan said he wants to repeal the health care law and “join those conservatives who stand up for constitutional rights.”

Lonegan and Palin both harkened back to New Jersey’s role in the American Revolution.

“A win in New Jersey on Wednesday, which we will have,” Lonegan said, “will be the shot heard `round the world.”

The rally comes a day after Lonegan fired Rick Shaftan, one of his top advisers, who had bashed Booker in a profane interview, questioning his sexuality. Lonegan’s campaign said Shaftan did not attend the rally.

Lonegan spent the day campaigning throughout central New Jersey.

Booker resumed campaigning Saturday. He canceled all campaign events Thursday and Friday after his father died.

Booker made stops in northern New Jersey. He told a crowd in Paterson that the past two days have been difficult, but he still feels his father’s love.

Booker said the race was a chance to show that “shutdown politics don’t work.” He said he plans to keep his campaign positive.

Booker did, however, chide Lonegan for remarks he made in Wednesday’s debate. Lonegan said Newark is so crime-ridden the Passaic River is filled with dead bodies. Booker said it shows a disrespect for New Jersey’s urban areas.