Last night I watched on line the Romney rally in Yardley, PA, 15 miles away from here. It was a complete surprise to me: For starters, it was cold (upper 30s/low 40s), hundreds of people in Bucks County were flooded and had no electricity or heat since Sandy struck on Monday, and most importantly, Bucks was Obamaland.
PowerLine has a report from an attendee,
The crowd was enormous. The first picture attached was of the line at security. That “line” is about 50 people abreast — off to the left you can see one half of one tent; there were two, side by side, filled edge to edge with metal detectors — and it wasn’t yet 4 PM. Traffic was backed up for miles, literally, on nearby I-95. And people kept coming. And coming. And coming. The crowd was upbeat and feisty — two signs I recall were “No Heat/No Power/and in two days/No Obama,” and “Buck Ofama.”
As of this writing I have heard no official crowd size estimates. I have no relevant training, and unlike, say, Red Rocks, there was no vantage point from which you could see the entire crowd. The rally was in a large field, and the crowd simply sprawled in three directions. My estimate, based on other crowd estimates, is that eventually there were about 25k people there, not counting ones I couldn’t see because they came very late and trailed off in the darkness, and not counting the several thousand who had no tickets and watched from outside the Hurricane fence. The second picture was taken from my vantage point during the Romney presentation — and there were at least as many people behind me as there were in front. And at least equal numbers directly in front of him, and the same off to his left front.
And it was cold. In the upper 30s, which doesn’t sound so bad in the abstract, but it was bitterly cold to people who had been standing in the cold for hours, and especially bitter to folks who had had no heat for almost a week. With a brisk wind to add to the misery. The wait grew longer and longer. And to be blunt, the Marshall Tucker Band had limited success perking up the waiting throng, and the speakers who stood up next — former Governor Tom Ridge, Senator Pat Toomey, and current Governor Tom Corbett — had a little more success, especially Corbett. But Corbett ran out of anecdotes, and the crowd became silent and stolid. After an interval, a pair of Romney videos played, well received, but after they ended, the same stolid silence descended. I was beginning to fear the rally would be a bust. But nobody left; like the next stage of enduring the hurricane and the aftermath, everyone simply waited quietly in the cold.
And then the bus appeared.
And then the cheering started.
Ragged at first, the cheers swelled to a roar as the Romney campaign bus wheeled into the arena. Mitt and Ann Romney emerged, and it was like a wall of sound fell on the crowd. The Romneys strode to the stage, embraced, and after immediate pleasantries, Ann introduced Mitt.
I keep hearing how wooden Romney is on the stump. They must have meant some other Romney. This one was fluid, his voice at turns powerful and emotional. I don’t know how the crowd noise came across on TV, but in person, it was its own physical presence, vibrating everyone with its intensity. Except when Romney grew sober when relating a sad anecdote; then the crowd simply disappeared, for both the speaker and the listener. A rousing crescendo of a conclusion by Romney, capped off by a surprisingly good fireworks display, and the rally was over. It took some people more than three hours to escape the traffic.
Romney didn’t say anything new. But he connected with the crowd on both emotional and intellectual levels. The man oozes resolve and commitment the way steelworkers ooze sweat. He clearly loves America, and radiates that love, in counterpoise to Obama, whose distaste for the nation remains palpable. (You can’t hate half the nation, urge your supporters to take *revenge* on half the nation, and still love the place and the people.) Based on the crowd size and reaction in a county that went solidly for Obama four years ago, based on the confidence of the man, I would say it’s likely Romney will indeed win Pennsylvania — and with it, the presidency. While you’d expect rally attendees to favor the candidate, their enthusiasm was something I did not sense at a McCain rally four years ago — and even after Romney’s rally, even after hours standing without seats in the cold, the attendees I spoke with were still bubbling with enthusiasm.
Over in Ohio, Mitt got 30,000, Obama 2,800.
But fear not, Obama has the coveted Pee Wee Herman endorsement. That ought to count for something.
Email from a reader: The rally was announced on Friday afternoon.
And, one more thing,
I don’t know if gas stations are back to normal in Bucks, but in adjacent Mercer Co., NJ, they are definitely not. Risking a long wait without assurance of available gas means you have a most motivated voter.