The Crowd Size Primary
By Shailagh Murray
CORALVILLE, Iowa -- Does crowd size matter?
The temperature is close to zero. Anyone in Iowa who is remotely interested in politics has heard an earful from all the candidates. And yet, on the Democratic side in particular, the crowds are getting bigger and bigger -- even for candidates who barely register in the polls.
Here in Coralville, near the University of Iowa campus, around 1,450 Iowans packed into hotel ballroom this afternoon for Barack Obama, with 100 and counting filling an overflow room. Joe Biden drew 350 at an Ames library a few days ago and 550 in Des Moines on New Year's Day. Bill Richardson counted 350 in Ames yesterday and 500 in Des Moines on New Year's Eve. John Edwards is drawing similar numbers during his final 36-hour blitz around the state. Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton appear to be drawing the biggest crowds. As Obama spoke in Coralville, Clinton wooed 1,000 in nearby Cedar Rapids. Obama hit 1,000 twice on New Year's Day, in Council Bluffs and Des Moines. (We caution that these are unofficial estimates provided by various campaigns.)
Some people in the audiences are surely caucus tourists who are simply checking out the scene. But crowd building also is a serious campaign exercise that tests organizational strength and may foreshadow actual attendance at the caucuses tomorrow night. At all of his events, Obama asks people to raise their hands if they are first-time caucus goers, and around half of the crowd typically responds. If the Democratic crowds bear out tomorrow night, the record-shattering turnout that some have predicted could very well come true.
Web Politics Editor
January 2, 2008; 6:22 PM ET
Categories: Barack Obama , Hillary Rodham Clinton
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