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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lining up at The Villages for Sarah Palin



THE VILLAGES -- Lori Pitner walked back to her place in line at Barnes & Noble, holding her toothbrush and tooth paste.

The 46-year-old stay-at-home mom and Sunday school teacher from Tavares, Fla., arrived here with her posse -- a girlfriend who is running for U.S. Congress and several children --  at 4 p.m. on Monday.

"We are so inspired by Sarah Palin," said Pitner, who has made it about 50 pages into the former Alaskan governor and Republican vice presidential candidate's new book, Going Rogue.

Palin, who is scheduled to appear at 2:30 p.m. and sign books until 5 p.m., attracted a line of what appeared to be 600 to 800 people seeking coveted green arm bands allowing them entrance.

OT_315126_rive_PALIN_2Organizers set up a small stage in the event Palin decides to make remarks to the crowd, though Barnes & Noble organizers said they couldn't say for sure if she would speak. On Monday, organizers were calling it a photo opportunity only. They also wouldn't confirm how many arm bands they'd handed out.

In September 2008, Palin drew a record crowd of between 25,000 to 60,000 during a rally in this bustling retirement community 100 miles north of Tampa. And while Palin's life and political career has taken some serious turns since then, the faithful camped out today in lawn chairs and beach loungers remain as committed as ever.

The Villages retirement community, billed as the largest in the world with almost 100,000 people, has been a Republican stronghold for years, and in recent weeks and days attracted Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee on their respective tours through the state.

Connor Lanser, 14, said he talked his mother and grandmother into driving him here from Boca Raton. He said that until he first saw Sarah Palin, he believed he was a Democrat.

Like Pitner, Lanser arrived at the line around 4 a.m. on Monday, wearing his self-made "I (heart) Sarah Palin President in 2012" T-shirt.

"She relates to us," said Lanser, who said he liked Palin's plain-spoken writing style."She doesn't put all those crazy words in there."

-- Rebecca Catalanello, Times staff writer / Times photos | MAURICE RIVENBARK

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:07pm]


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