Sarah Palin at Irish Pub for tonight's debate

Republican volunteers from Montgomery County (from left) Eileen Petrille, Corinne Morgan, Traci Dallas-Opdahl, Mary Obel and Joanne Markey (hidden), meet Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on the tarmac Thursday in Philadelphia. (Jessica Griffin / Inquirer)

If tonight's presidential debate takes place, an Irish bar in Center City will be in the limelight, hosting Gov. Sarah Palin at a pre-debate party.

The Irish Pub, 2007 Walnut St., will open its doors at 5 p.m. to receive ticketed guests for the private function.

Paul Lindsay, the McCain campaign's spokesman, declined to release any details about tonight's event, or why the Irish Pub had been picked to host the Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee. All Lindsay would say was that Palin, who landed in Philadelphia yesterday, was here to do some preparation for her own debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But Mark O'Connor, one of the pub's three owners, said the McCain campaign told pub managers to expect 400 people, a number he said would fit in the tavern's five rooms.

The Secret Service has been in to make plans for security measures, O'Connor said.

Palin is expected to arrive at the pub between 7 and 7:30 tonight and "cruise around," greeting people, O'Connor said. There's no special food or drink; it's just the pub's usual offerings.

Palin's expected to leave around 8:30 p.m., as the party ends, O'Connor said. The pub will reopen to the public at 9 p.m., the debate's scheduled start time.

On Wednesday night, O'Connor said he'd been told the likelihood of the presidential debate's being held was "iffy," but that changed 24 hours later.

As of yesterday, O'Connor said, "I'm pretty confident it will go forward."


Contact staff writer Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2730 or