It was a good time, and given what I went through to obtain my "VIP" ticket, it dawned on me the true value of these visits.
One could simply walk into a McCain campaign office and pick up a free ticket that would get you into the seats. But if you wanted a VIP ducat, which would allow you on the floor and possibly within reach of a handshake or autograph, you had to make 100 calls at that office's phone bank.
So while these visits are an opportunity to generate some free publicity in the local news, it's also a way to spark some local volunteers to get out and make calls or knock on doors (to get the tickets). It's all about energizing the base.
So about one hour and countless hang-ups and messages later, I had my VIP pass, and it was off to GB ...
Naturally, there were some Obama backers there. They kept a respectable distance, and at least they were clever. One was wearing a McCain mask (not sure who the other mask-wearer is supposed to be), and the big wooden thing in front of them is a "rubber stamp" that I think actually worked, as they appeared to stamp something on their sign. Let's see the Pro Lifers match that when they crash Obama's next visit.
Barb, a woman I spoke with briefly down on the floor wearing a "Republican" print dress, prepares her sign by scrawling "1st S.B.C.T. mom" across the top of it. It turns out her son is in the same unit - Striker Brigade Combat Team - as Palin's son Track and will be deployed with him shortly. While she was made to give up her homemade sign at the door, she was hoping to catch Palin's attention with this one. As it happens, Palin mentioned her by name in her speech.
Palin and McCain enter the arena.
Palin kicks off, following introductions by state attorney general J.B. Van Hollen, Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Reince Priebus and 8th Congressional District candidate John Gard, who is shown at the far right.
McCain speaks, and a Secret Service agent obscures a direct sightline of Palin's ass.
McCain works the ropeline after his stirring speech about ... did I mention Palin was standing right behind him? I'm looking over the right shoulder of the lady whose left hand you see here, so if I'd really pushed forward, I might've gotten a handshake with the man ... and then gotten shot.
More ropeline, this with some "ultra VIPs" who got their own little bullpen area. Someone told me they were like wives of state assemblymen or something. ... THAT warrants a personal meet-and-greet!?
Palin and McCain work their way down the runway and out of the arena, but not before shaking some more hands and inking some autographs. It wasn't until I'd taken my spot on the floor that I'd realized I hadn't brought a Sharpie with me. I didn't imagine I'd get close enough. But I'll know next time. And they will be back. After all, Wisconsin IS a swing state!