November 5th, 2012

Crowd size: does it matter?

You’ve probably noticed lots of photos of the huge crowds Romney has been drawing lately.

And perhaps you’ve read some of the articles I’ve read, pro and con on the subject of whether crowd size at rallies matters. They tend to point out that a lot of losing candidates (for example, John Kerry) have drawn huge crowds, especially towards the final days of their campaigns.

Of course, Kerry almost won, so I guess you’d expect him to have attracted large crowds. It’s not as though 2004 was a blowout election.

This article points out that in 1972 and 1988—elections in which the losers lost big—McGovern and Dukakis drew large and enthusiastic crowds.

But what I’m trying to find out—and what so far has been hard to discover—is where these huge crowds were showing up. For example, in that article I just linked to, the Humphrey and Dukakis rallies mentioned took place in New York City. Also mentioned are large rallies for Dukakis in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia.

These are liberal Democratic strongholds, and I believe that was true back then as well. So large crowds there for liberal Democratic nominees would hardly be surprising, even if the candidate went on to lose big-time, like McGovern and Dukakis (McGovern carried only the state of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, but if memory serves me I recall that he also won New York City).

My sense of it is that in general crowd size can indicate enthusiasm, but it really doesn’t tell you much about who will win, especially in a close race. But this time around both candidates are spending nearly all their time during these waning weeks of the campaign in battleground states. One would expect a big Romney crowd in Utah or Kansas, or a big Obama crowd in Madison or Berkeley, but what’s going on in possible swing states Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Ohio and Colorado? Seems to me that Romney is drawing the bigger crowds there, but that might be because more people feel they know Obama and are curious about Romney.

Whatever the reason, I’ll take it. Large crowds can’t be a bad sign. But I don’t put a whole lot of stock in it.

I don’t put a whole lot of stock in anything this election year. It’s been clear for quite some time that most Democrats will vote for Obama, most Republicans for Romney, and Independents will go somewhat for Romney. But no one knows how many of each group will come out to vote, and that’s what the results will depend on.

My liberal friends and acquaintances and relatives are an admittedly tiny sample, even though most of my friends/acquaintances/relatives are liberal. I have not spoken to all of them about this election, but I can tell you about the ones I have talked to. Although they are not quite as starry-eyed about Obama as they were in 2008, their enthusiasm and determination to vote for him remain undiminished. In fact, my impression is that their drive to do so may even be greater than before, because I sense a protective and defensive quality in them now, a perception that Obama has been under siege and is vulnerable.

They have also most definitely bought into every talking point the Obama campaign has given out about Romney, and they demonize him. One or two even cited Romney’s Mormonism against him, although they themselves are not religious and Obama’s affiliation with Reverend Wright has never been a problem for them.

So if these people are any indication, there is still enthusiasm for Obama—if not for Obama as Lightbringer, then for Obama as good guy liberal vs. evil Republican capitalist woman-hater. That’s the power of propaganda, folks.

As I said, it’s a small sample. Perhaps it means nothing. But it perturbs me. I hate to be such a worrywart, but that’s what I’ve been observing lately, and it’s one of the reasons I’ll be shaking come Tuesday night.

32 Responses to “Crowd size: does it matter?”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    Oh, relax. Take up drinking. Or at least get a big rum cake and eat it. This cake is baked.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    vanderleun: someone left the rum cake out in the rain.

    World’s stupidest lyrics:

  3. expat Says:

    May I suggest an alternative? Powerline says that the final volume of The Last Lion comes out tomorrow. Have a whiskey with Winston.

  4. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    Remember that liberals (true blue liberals) are a small part of the electorate. They got used to getting their way in swinging the independent (centrist) vote. That ain’t happening.

    You’re right they will vote to defend Obama but he won in 2008 by others votes.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    expat: Thanks for letting me know. Unfortunately, author William Manchester died years ago. He left his notes, but they’ve been cobbled together by Paul Reid. I read that Manchester himself asked Reid to do it, so maybe it’s even good, and I’ll give it a chance. But I can’t imagine it could approach Manchester’s work.

    Interesting date for its release.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    DirtyJobsGuy: good point.

    I find it hard to believe anyone but a die-hard liberal would have voted for Obama in 2008. But clearly they did.

  7. expat Says:

    Rudi is really slamming Obama and FEMAhere

    This could shake up some people. Send it around.

  8. Steve Says:

    neo, I understand your liberal friends buy arguments against Romney but what do they think of Obama’s job performance? Is the power of the liberal groupthink so strong that they can explain away his incompetence? One approach to confronting liberals might be to say ‘if I want to know what the NYT or dem talking points are, I only have to talk with you.’ I am sure they would like to think of themselves as independent thinkers. They might be shocked to realize they are anything but original in a political sense.

  9. gpc31 Says:

    It’s true. Every single Democrat I’ve listened to among friends and colleagues demonizes Romney and blames Bush. No mention of a single positive accomplishment by Obama — it’s all hate, all the time. Very, very defensive.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: it’s on a very different level for them. There is literally no way most of them could ever vote for a Republican. They think Republicans are evil, bigoted, cruel, heartless, etc. (how they factor me in I don’t know; they think I’m just weird). My guess is that they would explain Obama’s “incompetence” (and I don’t think they’d agree that he has been incompetent) by saying it is because of the Republicans, who’ve cruelly and selfishly blocked his efforts at bringing us all together, etc.

    They know very little about conservatism. I focus on telling them what conservatives (or, many conservatives) really believe, and what Romney really says. I don’t think insulting them by saying they’re parroting talking points is going to reach them at all; it would just start a fight. I always try to be very polite and respectful to people.

  11. Paul in Boston Says:

    Thanks for the heads up expat. The first two volumes were terrific, I’ll have to head out and get it tomorrow.

  12. James Says:

    Yes, good post. Here in Austin people are tearing the doors off the early voting places. I have never seen it like this. Everywhere in this liberal bastion you see Romney signs ( exept hipster areas, but they’re hopeless with irony) and no O signs. Tommorrow I do not believe the American voters will have spoken they will thunder. Landslide.

  13. Paul in Boston Says:

    Neo, your comment about the crowds is interesting and well taken. I think though, that the tell in this case is that Obama is having a hard time getting his partisans to show up in large numbers. His crowds are much smaller than Romney’s where ever he goes, by definition friendly territory. Remember that his speech at the DNC had to be moved to a much smaller venue at the last minute since the huge crowd of 2008 that they were expecting just wasn’t materializing. Even that great showman, Bill Clinton, is speaking to half full high school auditoriums.

  14. Steve Says:

    neo, I would say liberal groupthink is the problem and challenging it is not insulting, it is the solution.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: it’s the way you challenge it that matters.

  16. Teri Pittman Says:

    It is their religion. They vote for liberals because they feel they are more intelligent and discriminating that everyone else. And they demonize Republicans for being “evil”. They are as closed minded as any Fundamentalist.

    Don’t listen to them because they will lose this year. Maybe, over the next four years, some of them will become less close minded. I doubt it. They do not venture too far out of their comfort zone.

  17. vanderleun Says:

    Steve Says:
    November 5th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
    neo, I would say liberal groupthink is the problem and challenging it is not insulting, it is the solution.

    neo-neocon Says:
    November 5th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
    Steve: it’s the way you challenge it that matters.

    Obamacare lobotomies would be a start.

  18. Curtis Says:

    A woman called into Rush Limbaugh today and expressed great anxiety, not only about the election but about the horrid fact that even if Romney wins 56-44, that means there are at least 44% of the populace that approve of Obama. And she couldn’t accept or understand that fact.

    I though Rush did a great job by telling her that now was the time to defeat them. Work on changing them later.

    On the other hand, Obama is starting to sound deranged. I heard an excerpt of one his last speeches and it reminded me of a crazy neighbor we had. Obama’s pronunciations were almost breathless and strongly suggested a disorder of some kind: high anxiety, paranoia, something, but it was noticeable.

  19. Curtis Says:

    The three indicators that matter: The economy, the debates, and the polls. The latter, being that they all represent 2008 turn out despite there being no chance of that being the case, are perhaps the strongest indicator of the three.

  20. vanderleun Says:

    Romney by 53 to 46. Wave or undertow, it didn’t matter. Barack Obama won only 11 states and DC.

    They were the few lone blue islandsawash in a red sea. The effect downticket was just as bad for Democrats. They returned to the Senate holding only 43 seats (including 2 Independents). Bob Menendez, weighed down by a prostitution scandal, was further hamstrung by a Democratic electorate that, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, had things to do other than vote while, fooled by the pollsters, they complacently expected a Democratic win. In the House, the GOP returned to Washington with gains and a total of 250 seats. — Bob Krumm. The scenarios: 5-Gallup electorate poll is right

  21. Jim Says:

    I was also wondering how much momentum Kerry had against Bush in ’04 at this point. I live in California, so it seemed like GW was doomed, and people were actually shocked that he won. Does anyone have any stats or anecdotes to provide context? I’m too lazy to look for them myself. Haha.

    But I guess one indicator that there isn’t as much excitement for The One this time around is that my liberal friends refuse to talk about politics. At this time in ’08, you couldn’t get them to shut up about Obama. They were constantly taking jabs at McCain, Palin (especially) and Bush (even though he wasn’t running). Now they are conspicuously silent on the whole subject, with their only comments being along the lines of “I can’t wait for all of this to be over” and “BOTH parties suck.” But just like Neo’s friends, they WILL vote for Obama, more out of spite, or perhaps “revenge,” than anything else.

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    Jim: take a look.

  23. Qae Says:

    I run a program in the human services in eastern Pennsylvania, and over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to talk about the election in a casual way with some new employees. Several of these have only recently graduated from college, and all of them were ecstatic to have a job. I was astonished to hear that none of them planned to vote.

    That’s the clearest sign I’ve had that this election isn’t even close to resembling the one held in 2008.

  24. Susanamantha Says:

    Curtis –

    I heard the same speech today. Obama did sound “off” as if he is getting a cold, or has asthma or something. It wasn’t his normal speech.

  25. Jenna Says:


    You have described to a tee the behaviors and thinking of my many liberal friends towards this election. They will vote for O tenaciously and in droves but, I believe, merely to prop up their own self-image. Signs that the black vote will be somewhat depressed seem credible. But nothing yet gives me solid confidence in a Romney win. And the many pundits tempting the gods by calling a Romney victory are giving me the heebie jeebies.

  26. Jim Says:

    Thanks Neo. Looks like Bush had a small but significant lead going into election day. The crowds Romney and Ryan have been drawing HAVE been encouraging to me. They remind me of the crowds Obama was drawing in 2008. Like you said, this can’t be a BAD sign. I’m still getting more nervous by the hour though.

  27. parker Says:

    While I could be completely wrong, I see a massive defeat for the Obama Zombies along the lines of the congressional elections in 2010. Romney by 5-7% and 300+ electoral votes.


  28. Denise Says:

    I still believe that Obama is going to win this because Romney will not carry Ohio. Please do not underestimate the power of the Democratic voting machine, especially in the Midwest. Democrats control entire cities and know that in those precincts any voter they get to the polls is an Obama voter. Republicans have no comparable zones of such overwhelming dominance. The big cities are Democratic vote factories.

    In Detroit, there was a three to five hour wait in the early voting lines this past weekend.

    What Democrats might lack in outright enthusiasm (and it’s definitely not at the level it was four years ago), they make up for by organization.

  29. Curtis Says:

    I don’t think so much of those big city slicker machines. Remember Wisconsin. The whole might of the national city slicker machinery operated against Walker for a year to no avail.

  30. parker Says:

    “The whole might of the national city slicker machinery operated against Walker for a year to no avail.”

    Yep, I think that by this time tomorrow we will see the real ‘silent majority’ reject the messiah.

  31. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master Says:



    … but if memory serves me I recall that he also won New York City)


    Dave Leip **rules**:

    NEW YORK county by county data for 1972

    Not quite:

    McGovern carried The Bronx, Kings, and “New York” (Manhattan?), but lost out on Queens and (AFAICS) all the rest of NY State.



  32. neo-neocon Says:

    Smock Puppet: total up all the votes from the 5 boroughs for McGovern and then for Nixon, and you’ll find that McGovern carried New York City.

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