State News

Anticipation builds for Palin's first visit to N.C.

Posted October 7, 2008 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2008 7:27 p.m. EDT

— A crowd of more than 8,000 people was buzzing Tuesday evening on the campus of East Carolina University, hours before Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was scheduled to attend a rally there.

Palin was supposed to speak at 7 p.m. but was running behind schedule. will carry her speech live as soon as she arrives in Greenville.

Palin's appearance at Minges Coliseum is the first major North Carolina campaign event for the Republican ticket in months. GOP presidential nominee John McCain last visited the state on May 6, the same day as North Carolina's primary election.

She was expected to to buoy her party's ticket in a state that Democrats hope to capture for the first time in more than three decades.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican candidate for governor, were among those in attendance.

Palin's appearance underscores Republican fears that Democratic nominee Barack Obama is close to capturing the state that has backed GOP presidential candidates in every election since 1976. Obama has been campaigning aggressively in the state, with hundreds of campaign staffers on the ground and a constant flow of television ads on the air.

Obama and his surrogates also have repeatedly appeared in North Carolina – he spoke in Asheville Sunday, and his wife appeared in Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon. The work has appeared to help: Polls indicate the race is too close to call.

McCain has started to increase his presence in North Carolina with television ads and campaign staff. His political aides announced two weeks ago that he planned to increase the number of paid staff from 20 to 30. Obama's campaign claims close to 400 workers.