Romney Working The (Small) Crowd in S.C.
By Michael D. Shear
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Campaigning at the end of a long, frenetic day, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ended his rally here Tuesday night by telling the crowd how appreciative he was that they took the time to attend.
"I want to say hi to each of you, if I can," he said.
And that's the problem. He could.
In the 30,000-square-foot airplane hanger at the Myrtle Beach airport were about three dozen people, who listened politely and then crowded around to shake Romney's hand after he finished the 10-minute talk.
To be fair, it was 7:30 p.m. on a chilly South Carolina night in an unheated airplane hangar. So perhaps it's not surprising that there wasn't an overwhelming crowd. And Romney has been drawing somewhat bigger crowds in New Hampshire and Iowa, sometimes facing as many as 100 or 200 people.
On the other hand, there are just 15 days left until the voting begins in the election, and Romney is one of the leading contenders for president, not city council.
In fact, the Republican candidates have been drawing nowhere near the crowds of their Democratic rivals. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama regularly draw several hundred people at an event.
And Obama has had some fantastically large crowds -- driven in part by talk show queen Oprah Winfrey -- that Republicans can only dream about.
The crowd sizes point to the stark difference in enthusiasm in the two parties. Democrats are pumped up about their candidates and their hopes to take back the White House. Republicans, by contrast, are far less enthused by their choice or their chances to stay in power.
That's not Romney's fault. He's running for president in a year that can't be easy for any Republican. But he's suddenly in a serious fight for his political life in Iowa, and standing there, looking out at a few dozen people at a time, can't be encouraging.
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