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.