updated 12/28/2004 5:09:07 PM ET 2004-12-28T22:09:07

It’s one of the hottest tickets in Washington this winter, and unlike most of the parties planned for President Bush’s second inauguration, it’s free and the dress is come-however-you-can-stay-warm. But getting one of the 250,000 tickets to Bush’s swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the Capitol won’t be easy, particularly for people from so-called red states that voted Republican in November.

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For most people, the only way they can get a ticket is through their senator or representative and the demand for them in GOP-majority states is running high, congressional aides say.

Each senator, regardless of party, gets 400 tickets to distribute. House members get about 200 apiece. To meet the demand, Republican lawmakers are asking Democrats for their leftovers, since not that many Democrats plan to make the trip to celebrate Bush’s victory.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, already has more than 1,000 requests — some for more than 50 tickets apiece. And it’s not just in Texas.

“We have requests for over 500 tickets,” said Sarah Moore, spokeswoman for Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.

To fill the demand, the winning party inevitably turns to the losers — and asks nicely for the extra tickets.

For example, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts — the Democratic challenger Bush defeated — had only about 220 requests for tickets last week, said spokesman David Wade.

His Massachusetts colleagues are seeing just about the same amount of interest. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., expects to have some tickets left over, which he said he will give to some of his Republican colleagues. “He’s happy to help when he can,” Frank spokesman Peter Kovar said.

The trading likely will pick up as the inauguration nears. Lawmakers won’t get the actual tickets until January.

Lawmakers are not the only people to contact for a ticket. The president, vice president and Supreme Court each get blocks of them.

The inauguration will be a big day for Supreme Court watchers: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80, is to swear in Bush as his first public appearance since he announced Oct. 25 that he has thyroid cancer. He has been working from home while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

Other people invited who may have an extra ticket include former members of Congress, governors, Congressional Medal of Honor winners and the Washington diplomatic corps.

Several Web sites also offer to sell people the free inaugural tickets for as much as $150.

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