If the Washington Post’s report is correct, and 8,000 people turned out, the real news is that two days before the big health care vote, Obama couldn’t fill a 10,000 seat arena at a university with 30,000 students (albeit many part-time), in a state and county Obama won, with many of the seats undoubtedly taken up by Democratic activists from the D.C. area.
It’s not like Obama is inherently incapable of drawing big crowds, including at less portentous moments. Compare this, for example, with a February 2008 rally in Seattle that drew 18,000 attendees plus another 3,000 “overflow.” Or a rally of 14,000 in Boise (!) the same week.
Apparently, the Obama folks themselves expected a bigger crowd, because the first rule of political theater is that you always want the audience to look “packed.” The thrill, apparently is gone.
UPDATE: Student reporters at Mason also count about 2,000 empty seats (despite the headline that Obama “fills” the Patriot Center).
FURTHER UPDATE: Obama drew over 100,000 people at October 2008 campaign rallies in St. Louis and Denver. Not directly analogous events, of course, but it still must be something of a shock to the Obama administration that they can’t fill a relatively dinky indoor stadium on a large university campus a stone’s throw from D.C. two days before what is likely to be the most important vote of his presidency. Wavering Democrats in the House beware…
One more update: A conservative blogger who attended claims that the Patriot Center was half empty, and that the eight thousand figure is exaggerated.