If the success of a campaign could be judged by looking at the size of the crowds, then President Obama is not doing nearly as well as he did in 2008—but he’s doing far better than Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
A story in the New York Times that analyzed the presidential race by looking at the size of the crowds each candidate draws concludes that the president’s enthusiasm level among voters is coming in much lower than it did in 2008, when he was the rock star who filled up huge stadiums. At his latest campaign stops in Colorado over the last two days, Obama drew crowds of 4,200 and 3,500 to cheer him on—a total of about 14,100 over the past two days. Respectable numbers—and far larger than Romney crowds—but not the same as before.
Four years ago by comparison Obama was pulling in numbers like 20,000 at one stop and 54,000 people at three stops.
“Which raises a couple of questions: Where are the crowds now? And what does it mean for the results in November” the Times asks.
But according to the Obama campaign, the lower numbers are intentional.
“We have plenty of time for big rallies,” a campaign spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told the Times between the rallies on Thursday. “Our focus right now is on exciting our supporters and winning over undecided voters and the smaller and medium-size events are the best venue to accomplish that because the president can closely engage with the crowd.”
According to the Times, big rallies are expensive and present even more logistical and security challenges than before because Obama is president now, as opposed to a mere United States senator. Campaign officials say they intentionally limit crowds by restricting tickets, allowing Obama an opportunity to connect better with supporters. In addition, they are scheduling appearances at smaller towns than they did in 2008.
While Romney’s campaign officials say the Obama crowds are evidence of the president’s “enthusiasm gap,” Romney’s crowds are so low that Democrats sometimes makes fun of him by sending out pictures over email and Twitter of empty seats at Romney events.
At recent events over the past week, Romney drew crowds of about 500 in Ohio, about 200 in Colorado. In addition, the Times pointed out, Romney’s corwds are overwhelmingly white while the president’s are much more diverse. But that is just a reflection of the nature of their supporters.