Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin mistook some of her own fans for hecklers Monday at a rally that drew thousands.

A massive crowd of at least 20,000 spread across the parking lot of Richmond International Raceway, and scores of people on the outer periphery more than 100 yards from the stage could not hear.

"Louder! Louder!" they began chanting, and the cry spread across the crowd to Palin’s left. Some pointed skyward, urging that the volume be increased.

Palin stopped her remarks briefly and looked toward the commotion.

"I hope those protesters have the courage and honor to give veterans thanks for their right to protest," she said.

Some in the crowd tried to shout toward her what was really being said, but she couldn’t hear them.

On a sunny day in which many had stood in place for more than three hours without shade, at least 25 people collapsed from heat-related illnesses and three were hospitalized, according to the Henrico County fire department.

Palin had campaigned with John McCain earlier Monday in Virginia Beach, only the second time the GOP ticket has campaigned in Virginia since June. Democrat Barack Obama or his running mate, Joe Biden, together visited the state eight times during that span.

Virginia has been solidly Republican for 40 years but is now a battleground, with both sides locked in a very close race for the state’s 13 electoral votes.

Addressing the crowd, Palin largely avoided her recent criticisms of Obama. Instead, she acknowledged the emotion that has built up on both sides, particularly since the financial collapse.

"There is a lot of anger. There is anger at the inside dealing and anger at lobbyists and anger at the greed on Wall Street. There is anger at the Washington elite and there is anger at voter fraud," she said.

She promised a spending freeze if she and McCain win, and evoked cheers of "Drill, Baby, Drill!" in calling for greater domestic mining and oil drilling. The crowd roared when she criticized Biden for remarks he made in Ohio that the United States had little interest in coal-fired electrical power.

The afternoon’s loudest ovation came when country music star Hank Williams Jr. offered a rendition of his hit "Family Tradition" that opened by assailing "the left-wing liberal media."

Palin later appeared in northern Virginia, raising half a million dollars at a fundraiser in McLean. About 400 people attended the $1,500 per person event Monday evening at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner. The money goes to the Republican Party since the McCain campaign can’t raise any more money under federal rules.

Palin said voters will not be fooled into thinking that McCain’s election would be the equivalent of a third term for President Bush. She said McCain "took the gloves off" at his campaign appearances Monday and shouldn’t be faulted for pointing out differences in the two tickets’ records.

About 40 Democratic protesters waved signs at rush-hour commuters in busy Tysons Corner before the event.


Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat in McLean, Va., contributed to this report.

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