Filling arenas is Obama’s calling card. It’s impressive, looks great on tv, and gives him the air of a rock star that he works so hard to cultivate. It also means he doesn’t have to take questions, instead he just has to pull out his fake accent, read the teleprompter (yes he uses a teleprompter, even in New Hampshire), and yell sweet nothings in America’s ears.
Hillary Clinton could also fill stadiums, believe it or not, the numbers turned away at her events prove this, and she does sometimes use a stadium-like arena. More often however, she has chosen more intimate gatherings with Americans where guess what, they get to ask her questions. Unrehearsed answers, not that she hasn’t rehearsed every conceivable question, as has Barack I’m sure, are Hillary’s strong suit. You saw this in the debates where even the Obama-loving press admitted time and again that she was far better than Obama.
People don’t care about debates though, they care about celebrity. In a time when the Lohans, Hiltons, and Spears fill our newsmedia, Barack really does seem to be a man of his times.
Gone are the town hall-style meetings filled with 200 people.
Gone are the days where simply showing up to an event meant there was a good chance that if you wanted to meet the candidate, you could.
But these aren’t your average gatherings. Unless you consider an indoor football arena filled with what can be tens of thousands of people your “average gathering.”
Today’s Obama “rallies” – the term used in lieu of “town hall meetings,” which, most of the time, means Obama won’t take audience questions – now look more like rock concerts than anything else.
His staff has made it a goal to pack arenas that seat thousands as tight as they possibly can. People in overflow crowds have been overheard saying the campaign warned them that tickets would be granted to more people than there will be room for.
But after the event ends, it’s not uncommon to hear staffers mention how “surprised” they were that so many people showed up. Still, when the press arrived at the event at the Taco Bell Arena on the campus of Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, Saturday morning, a giant black curtain was hanging and dividing the seating area, keeping about a quarter of the seats out of view. It’s a tactic sometimes used by campaigns – including rival Hillary Clinton’s – that shrinks the amount of seating space in a room and gives an illusion there are more people than there actually are.
Soon, though, the curtain at the Boise event slowly came down, revealing vacant chairs and a number of large hand-painted campaign banners. A crowd that had still been waiting outside was beginning to fill these seats.
Arena officials estimated 15,000 showed up, setting a new record for number of people ever inside the building.
But the curtain illusion is a rarity in this campaign. There’s no denying his crowds have been simply monstrous.
According to the campaign, Obama’s Wednesday stop in Denver, Colorado, saw 9,500 fill an indoor arena and an additional 9,000 couldn’t get in filled an overflow room and an outdoor lacrosse field. (It’s worth noting, however, that this number could not be verified since members of the traveling media were not allowed outside to witness this.)
An event in an arena in St. Louis, Missouri, on Saturday, saw, according to the campaign, 20,000 people.
These kinds of numbers are, to say the least, difficult to confirm, but in general they appear believable, and this type of arena-style venue seems to have become the norm, at least in the days before Super Tuesday.
Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said a large venue benefits them particularly in states holding caucus-style nominating contests as opposed to primaries, i.e. New Mexico, Idaho, and Minnesota-three states the Illinois senator made stops in on Friday and Saturday.
“Theres a big organizing function to doing a large event in a caucus state because it gives you access to names,” Gibbs said. “It helps you direct people to the polling places, it gives you the ability to recruit election day volunteers, it helps you honestly just get the vote out for Tuesday.”