Springfield State Journal Register

November 2, 2002

Bush rally moved to Armory 

By BERNARD SCHOENBURG and DORI MEINERT
Copley News Service

If you don't have a free ticket for President Bush's appearance in Springfield on Sunday, your chances of seeing him are slim.

While originally planned for the grounds of the Old State Capitol, the Republican rally featuring Bush has been moved indoors to the State Armory, just north of the Statehouse. The move came because of weather reports predicting rain for Sunday, according to the Illinois Republican Party.

Kim Robinson, spokeswoman for the state GOP, said it was "a little bit disappointing," because only about 5,000 people will get to attend.

"There was so much more demand," she said.

More tickets have been printed, she said, but some were not given out after planners began to realize the event might have to be moved inside.

Tim Franke, director of operations at Springfield's Capital Airport, said there will be virtually no chance for the public to see the president at the airport. Arrival and departure times are not being released for security reasons, and the airport will be closed to spectators.

However, Franke said normal operations will continue Sunday, including regularly scheduled commercial flights.

For those who did get free tickets, the Armory will open at 8 a.m. Sunday. People should arrive as early as possible because of security checks. 

"If you do not arrive until 10:30 or quarter to 11, it's possible that you won't get in," Robinson said. 

Bags and backpacks are discouraged, and items such as sticks attached to signs will not be allowed.

Bob Kjellander of Springfield, a member of the Republican National
Committee, said it's been a decade since a sitting president visited
Springfield. George H.W. Bush, father of the current commander in chief, campaigned at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in 1992, when he was running for re-election against Democrat Bill Clinton.

Among those getting ready Friday for the visit was Kelly Goldberg, band director at Springfield High School. About 90 members of her band, as well as her top jazz ensemble, will be among entertainers at the rally.

"I wish I could have had a video camera to record the looks on their faces when our principal came in" to deliver the news the band would be playing for the president, Goldberg said. 

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to hope the president's visit will boost their chances in Tuesday's election.

"With the president at 60 percent-plus popularity, what he can do is stir people up and really invigorate people," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria. "If Republicans turn out in this election, our ticket will win. If Republicans turn out in this part of Illinois, we can be a counterweight to what we know will happen in Chicago."

Part of Springfield is in the new 19th Congressional District, where one of the hottest races in the country is taking place between U.S. Reps. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and David Phelps, D-Eldorado. Illinois lost one congressional district after the 2000 Census, resulting in the clash of incumbents.

Illinois Republicans also stand to lose the governorship for the first time since the 1970s if GOP Attorney General Jim Ryan loses to U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich, D-Chicago.

"The good news about a presidential visit is that it brings three things," said Terry Michael, executive director of The Washington Center for Politics & Journalism. "It brings money, it brings the spotlight of media attention, and it can help energize your base. If turnout is an important factor in your election, that's a very good thing. 

"The bad news is that it may not translate to votes from independents and other persuadables. But generally, you probably would rather have the leader of free world drop in than not."

Staff writers Dean Olsen and Tim Landis contributed to this report. Dori Meinert works in the Washington bureau of Copley News Service. Political writer Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.