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GOP expects tickets for Palin's Cape Girardeau appearance to sell out tonight
The logistics of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's visit to Cape Girardeau came into better focus Tuesday, as Republican volunteers made signs to display at the event and a campaign advance team worked out the configuration of the Show Me Center.
Palin, the GOP's vice presidential nominee, will arrive in Cape Girardeau early Thursday for a rally that will begin at 8:30 a.m. The doors to the Show Me Center will open at 6:30 a.m. for people who have received one of the thousands of tickets distributed since Monday.
A few tickets remained late Tuesday, but Republican Party officials said they expected them to be snatched up before they closed the doors at GOP headquarters at 9 p.m.
While the exact number of people who will be allowed into the Show Me Center's main arena was yet to be determined, Show Me Center spokesman Shannon Buford said an in-house closed circuit broadcast will take Palin's message to overflow areas in the Southeast Missouri State University student recreation center.
The Show Me Center seats 7,000 for basketball and the maximum seating for a stage show is listed at 7,177, Buford said.
"Right now we are experimenting with different setups to get as many people as possible in as we can," Buford said.
The presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain is paying for two days of rental on the arena, which lists at $3,000 a day plus expenses, said David Ross, director of the center.
Polls in Missouri show a close race between McCain and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee. Missouri is the ultimate battleground state, with voters here siding with the eventual presidential winner in all but one election since 1904.
Palin will fly into Cape Girardeau Regional Airport then travel by motorcade to the Show Me Center. While all streets in the city will remain open during Palin's visit except when the motorcade passes, Cape Girardeau police chief Carl Kinnison said motorists who usually use Sprigg Street near the arena should consider using different routes to avoid traffic backups as people try to enter and leave.
Police assigned to the duties of traffic control and other security measures will be off-duty and administrative officers in order to avoid as much as possible disrupting other police activities, Kinnison said.
The city will bear the cost of the extra pay for the officers, Kinnison said.
The Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department and the Southeast Department of Public Safety will also be on hand to assist as needed. Sheriff John Jordan said he has assigned deputies to "wherever they need us. If it is traffic, if it is crowds, we will backfill for them."
To ease traffic, a shuttle service will operate between West Park Mall and the Show Me Center, said Josh Haynes, political adviser to U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. The shuttle service will begin at about 6:30 a.m., he said. The exact location for pickup and drop-off were still being set late Tuesday.
People who want to make their opposition to McCain and Palin known will not be restricted to any single area, Kinnison said. Police will be watching to make sure they do not obstruct vehicle or pedestrian traffic and anyone causing a disruption on the Show Me Center property could be arrested for trespassing, he said.
Palin's visit has a twofold purpose -- to convince undecided voters and to whip up enthusiasm among Republicans for the final push before Tuesday's voting.
"As with every election, Missouri once again proves itself to be the battleground state," said Wendy Riemann, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin ticket's Midwest campaign efforts, in a statement issued Tuesday. "The McCain-Palin ticket has been committed to winning Missouri from the very beginning -- as evident by their many visits to the state -- including Gov. Palin's visit to Cape Girardeau on Thursday. Missourians resonate with the values the McCain-Palin ticket offers, and they are energized by the many visits, which we're confident will lead us to victory on Election Day."
Area Republican leaders were unsure late Tuesday how many tickets had been distributed. Thousands were handed out Monday to people who waited in line for two hours or longer for their seats. Additional tickets were printed and distributed Tuesday.
"If you have a ticket, you will get in the building," Haynes said.
The Palin visit is the first to Southeast Missouri by a national nominee of a major party since the Democrats and Republicans held their national conventions. Obama visited Cape Girardeau in May, holding a town-hall meeting at Thorngate Ltd. as he sought to nail down the Democratic nomination.
One of the biggest political events in Southeast Missouri history took place at the Show Me Center in September 1988, about a year after the arena opened, when President Ronald Reagan spoke to an overflow crowd on behalf of Vice President George H.W. Bush's presidential bid.