Landing preps for Romney, Ryan visit Saturday

Published On: Aug 31 2012 02:50:48 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 01 2012 08:15:45 AM EDT

For the second time in less than a month, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is making a campaign stop in northeast Florida.

This time he's bringing his vice president pick with him, Paul Ryan.

The two will be at the Jacksonville Landing on Saturday for a "victory rally." Doors open at 2:30 p.m., and the candidates will take the stage at 4:30 p.m.

At the Republican Party's headquarters in Duval County, all hands are on deck preparing for the visit.

"We're making hundreds of buttons and organizing volunteers for tomorrow," volunteer Gary Safreed said. "I'll be taking a table down there and lots of bumper stickers, hats and T-shirts."

With news that Jacksonville would be one of the first stops for the candidates following the Republican National Convention in Tampa, merchandise is flying off the shelves.

"We heard the rumor about four days ago, and of course rumors start and then all of a sudden Internet starts, and we were texting back and forth with people at the convention, and they got the news officially yesterday," Safreed said.

Northeast Florida is a hot spot for both political parties because it's typically a Republican stronghold, but in the last few years it's become a swing part of the state.

Experts say that's why Romney and Ryan are making their second stop in the area in a few weeks' time.

"I think they realize how important Florida is and how important Duval County is, and I think that's the reason they're coming," Romney supporter Kenneth Turner said.

Duval County had not gone Republican since Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976, but then-Sen. Barack Obama came within 5,000 votes of eclipsing 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain to switch the county from red to blue.

"The Democrats think that if they can stay close in Duval County, they may not necessarily have to win it, that this will help them tremendously in the state and help counterbalance other parts where Republicans are really strong," said University of North Florida political science professor.

At the Landing, the stage was almost in place Friday afternoon, and crews worked all day to get the decorations set up, the risers up and the sound system installed in anticipation of thousands of people coming.

"I'm going to be out here in the hot heat, wait out here for hours, and you know it's going to be worth it," voter Rory Diamond said.

Diamond just got back from the RNC but said he wouldn't miss the event in Jacksonville for anything.

Business owners at the Landing are looking forward to a large crowd.

"It helps out a lot because our daily business has slowed down a lot, so events really give us a boost so we can pay our bills and make a little bit of money," said Elmir Slavic, owner of An Apple A Day.

To RSVP and get a ticket to the event, visit this website.

All attendees will go through airport-like security and are asked to bring as few personal items as possible.

No bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, liquids or signs will be allowed at the event. Cameras will be allowed.