Skip to comments.Tickets for Bush Rally Go Quickly (Lakeland, Florida)
Posted on 10/21/2004 6:14:59 AM PDT by mattdono
Excitement at the three local Republican Party headquarters couldn't have been higher Wednesday if someone had been handing out free tickets to watch the Florida State and the University of Florida football teams play for the national championship.
President Bush will speak to a crowd of 12,000 at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday morning, and Bush supporters snapped up passes to the event. By the end of the day, the Republican campaign offices were out of tickets.
Advance teams for the candidate are in the city briefing GOP dignitaries and local law enforcement officials, and party volunteers are working on the decorations and the speakers' list.
Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday and close at 10 a.m. Bush will arrive from Lakeland Linder Regional Airport shortly after.
Lakeland police spokesman Jack Gillen said parking will be very limited at the stadium and suggested people car pool.
The Lakeland stop is important in the race to win Florida, said Paul Senft of Haines City, who is the Republican national committeeman for Florida.
This will be Bush's second visit to Polk County within a month and follows last week's visit to Lakeland by Vice President Dick Cheney.
John Santosuosso, a political scientist at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, said the reason for the frequent visits should be clear: Florida makes a nice prize because of its 27 electoral votes.
"Both parties anticipate a very, very close race here," he said. "One thing that has been very noticeable over the last several weeks is how they are concentrating in just a few states. Both candidates are ignoring a number of states they feel they have either already won or lost and are working on the close ones."
"Also, although very unscientific, based on my observations, Polk County had almost no Democratic Party signs out in recent elections," he said. "Now I am seeing many more Kerry-Edwards signs, although there are still more for the Bush-Cheney campaign."
The quick disappearance of tickets to the president's rally would indicate that Polk is still a bastion of support for Bush.
"We had long lines all morning," said Alcie Maldonado at the Bartow GOP headquarters Wednesday. "People are just so excited. We haven't had time to rest since we started."
At the Lake Miriam Plaza GOP office in Lakeland, Maureen Miller waited in line to get tickets for herself, her husband and two children.
Miller, a Lakeland resident, has seen Laura Bush in person but this will be the first time she'll see the president up close.
"Polk County is certainly Bush territory," she said.
The Interstate 4 corridor is very important in this year's election and the president's visit to Lakeland "kind of makes you feel like you're in the middle of things," said Ralph Holzapfel of Lakeland, who will see Bush in person for the second time. The first time was in Philadelphia.
Holzapfel said he was "quite impressed" by the efficient process of ticket dispensing at the Lakeland headquarters.
Vivien Carroll picked up her tickets Tuesday, but came to the Lakeland headquarters Wednesday afternoon to get Bush stickers.
Carroll, who recently saw Vice President Dick Cheney, plans to attend Saturday's rally with her husband, her teenage daughter and a friend.
Ticket requests were, "fast and furious" at the Winter Haven headquarters at Spring Lake Square, said Carol Trasport, chairwoman of the headquarters.
Kay Waterman of Auburndale saw John F. Kennedy when she was in college and on Wednesday picked up tickets to see President Bush. She's eager to find out what he's like in person.
David Fuller of Lake Wales voted for Bush in 2000 and said he's listened to all of Bush's speeches.
"I've never had the opportunity to see the president in person before and I would like to," Fuller said.
My parents live in The Villages, FL, where the President stopped on Tuesday. Mom handed out tickets for the Republican Club, and said they were checking ID to make sure attendees were Villages residents. They ran out of tickets very quickly. She's sending me the local newspaper report - I can't wait to see it!
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