Candidate's visit draws supporters, curious to Thorngate lot

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dozens and dozens of people milled around in the parking lot an hour before presidential hopeful Barack Obama was schedule to arrive.

Some came straight from work, others took advantage of a day off. Some wore stickers or buttons. Others carried handmade signs. Many arrived with family, friends or both. They ignored the rain drops falling intermittently.

Van Ayers and Nancy Caldwell-Ayers stood in line waiting for the security check before entering Thorngate Ltd. They said they came to see "the next president of the United States."

Van Ayers said he's voted in every election possible, from school bond issues to president, "since Jimmy Carter."

Beth Wessell, brought her granddaughter, Taylor, 6, even though they were not able to get inside for Obama's speech.

"I'm curious. But there's a good chance I'll vote for him," she said, adding that it was "a hard thing" to choose between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Leopold native Matthew Nanney, a 27-year-old insurance agent, came even though he couldn't see the speech. Like many, he said he just wanted to show support.

"I've just come here to get a glimpse of Obama," said Billy Curry, 41. He said he's never voted in a presidential election before, but he plans to this year.

Kim Baker, owns Bootheel Cash, just a block away from Thorngate. She closed her shop to take her daughter, Savannah, 9, and employee, Teempest Southall, 18, to wait in the parking lot.

"Not that we're supporters of Barack, but if he does becomes president -- my daughter, I thought she needs to possibly see him. She's seen George W. [Bush]," Baker said.

Mike Sheehan, of Cape Girardeau, said he's been voting for presidents "since 1960, at least." He came with friends out of curiosity.

"I just want to see Obama," he said, adding "I've see Reagan. I've seen Clinton. Who I'll vote for, I don't know. But I think it's going to be an interesting presidential race."

A few minutes after the invitees filtered into the building, the rain began falling steadily.

Far from the building, standing under umbrellas near the parking lot driveway, a handful of people gathered, waiting.

"We want him to know he does have friends down in Southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau," said Betty Michel of Cape Girardeau. "And phooey on Rush Limbaugh."

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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