High-court watchers eagerly await Tuesday's showdown

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His fraternity brother, Chris Crawford, said he was about 65th in line when he got to the court at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night. Only 27 people had taken tickets by the time court officials got to him at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, he said, suggesting the others also decided to wait it out another day.

Kevin Kung, a tech industry analyst, flew up from San Diego for Tuesday's arguments and also skipped a chance to get in Monday.

“The press definitely hyped it up,” he said of the relatively small crowd outside the Supreme Court on Monday morning.

Bigger things are yet to come, however. The circuslike atmosphere that has had U.S. Capitol Police on edge for weeks is expected to explode on Tuesday, when health law advocates from around the country are expected in force in conjunction with a massive Tea Party “Hands Off My Health Care” rally featuring such speakers as Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

Still, the atmosphere on Monday was unquestionably subdued.

A group of union protesters chanted slogans in favor of the law, while a handful of Tea Party opponents quietly held up their “Don't Tread on Me” flags.

Others showed up just to find out the latest news after learning that the arguments wouldn't be broadcast, per the court's habit.

“This is too restrictive,” Barbara Briston, a retired Federal Reserve employee from Alexandria, said of the lack of live coverage. “I want to come and go as I please.”

Briston, 75, said she's got Medicare coverage now but worries she'll have to buy unaffordable private coverage if the program goes bust.

“I even sent an email to Obama that if the mandate goes through, I'd have to vote Republican,” she said.