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Sarah can pack them in?

world Updated: Oct 30, 2008 01:26 IST
V Krishna

The pollsters may paint this state a solid blue, but Sarah Palin can still pack them in.

The Republican vice-presidential candidate drew more than 7,000 people to Penn State University's Rec Hall on a wintery day when both campaigns focused on the Keystone State although Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden enjoy a 10-point lead.

With their fortunes appearing to be on the wane in so many once-red states, this is a must-win-over for John McCain and Palin. So McCain also made a stop in the state on Tuesday, as did Obama.

More than two hours before the Alaska governor is to arrive at 9 p.m., a line stretches more than half a kilometre despite a temperature of 4 degrees, gusty, bone-chilling winds and a spot of drizzle. The campus in this small town in central Pennsylvania is one of the 10 largest in the country by enrollment, but the crowd is not mostly young. It is also
overwhelmingly white.

Their affinity for Palin —and McCain — is clear. Charles Guyer, a 66-year-old automobile mechanic from Centre Hall, thinks Palin is “pretty honest and outspoken, and that's what we need.” He believes she is qualified for the job. “She did a pretty good job in Alaska,” he says.

“I love her,” says Dave Gardner, a 58-year-old Navy retiree from Watsontown. “She has new ideas. We need new ideas — not that Bush is doing a bad job.”

Jim Pringle of Bellefonte, a 35-year-old textbook salesman accompanied by his wife and little daughter, says, “I don't support Obama. I like Palin. She ... has more American values. She is not a socialist.”

Keith Coddington, a 62-year-old semi-retired farmer, is “afraid Obama would take our freedom away from us.”

A small band of Obama supporters, mostly young people, shout slogans a few metres away. “Hey Sarah, I can see the moon from my backyard. Does that make me an astronomer?” says one of the placards.

Inside the hall, the crowd gets louder as local politicians and country singer Hank Williams Jr warm it up for the Alaska governor. Palin, who's accompanied by first dude Todd Palin, is received with long applause.

But with the election just a week away and the economy in the dumps, “it's going to be an uphill struggle” for the Republicans, Prof Steven Peterson of Penn State Harrisburg tells HT by telephone.