President George W. Bush will be in Tampa Saturday to campaign for brother and Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
But reports that the president’s Bay area appearance will take place in the Sun Dome still remain unconfirmed.
A White House spokesman said Tuesday that President Bush’s schedule indicates a Tampa visit Saturday, but the itinerary for the visit will not be known until Friday.
Bush/Brogan campaign officials had a similar response, saying they would release no information about the rally until the day before.
Even though there has yet to be an official confirmation, all of the signs seem to indicate that USF will receive a presidential visit.
Michael LaPan, president for Sun Dome, Inc., said he has spent the past two days in constant meetings with campaign officials. He said preparations are being made as though there will be a presidential visit.
“All plans point that way,” LaPan said. “I’m under the understanding that they will announce it (Tuesday).”
There was no official press statement sent by the university Tuesday concerning the Republican rally. USF media relations director Michael Reich did not return phone calls.
LaPan said the schedule has changed several times for the event. As it stands now, the event will begin at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 4 p.m.
Tickets, LaPan said, are being handled through the Republican Party.
If Bush does indeed visit Saturday, it will mark the second time a sitting president has come to USF. Ronald Reagan visited the campus in 1986.
LaPan, who was at USF for the Reagan visit, said hundreds of people will be involved in Saturday’s event. He said security will be increased but that most of the alterations made for the event will be done by the Bush/Brogan staff.
LaPan said Saturday’s rally did create a conflict with a computer event called “Operation Childproof.” But, LaPan said, organizers of that event agreed to push back their use of the Sun Dome for two weeks.
That paved the way for the Republican Party’s event. This will not be the first time in the home stretch of the gubernatorial race that the president has taken a trip to Florida to help his brother.
But if Bush does indeed visit Saturday, it will mark a final-hour appearance to a community that is considered Bill McBride’s home turf. A visit to the city’s major university just three days before an election that hinges largely on education may be an attempt by the governor to send a strong, last-minute statement.
And that statement, LaPan said, will be made in the midst of a Sun Dome manned and prepared far more than it is for most events.
But, LaPan said, after working through a presidential visit 16 years ago, he is prepared for the experience and enjoying the opportunity presented to his staff.
“I’ve been through it before,” LaPan said. “I know what to expect.”