Crowd? What Crowd?

Chris Bouneff

I can’t be the only one who found this odd. Between 40,000 and 50,000 show up for a political rally, an absolutely amazing number of people in this day of modern campaigning and modern communications.

The Seattle Times runs a story with the headline featuring the estimated number of attendees. Several other regional and national news outlets do the same.

In my hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, the only mention of the crowd size on the front page was in a cutline and this lead from Harry Esteve: "The two presidential candidates staged starkly different campaign events Friday in Portland -- one before a carefully selected indoor audience, the other a big open-air affair before tens of thousands of potential voters."

I understand the sensitivity of having both candidates in town at the same time and the need for fairness in coverage. But holy crap, 50,000 people?

The largest political rally in PDX in at least a decade, according to some stories (although I didn’t see mention of the last rally to draw 50,000 people). And it appears it may be the largest political rally nationally this year.

Come on. 50,000 people. Not for an entertainment event. Not for a food event. Not for a sporting event. For a dang political rally. Are you kidding?

That’s a spectacle that you’d hope your hometown fish wrapper would at least give some special attention to, even if it has to temper such amazement in the name of balance. But from the coverage in The O and some of the local newscasts I saw, you’d think it was just another routine waterfront crowd. The hell it was.....

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    It's kind of like the mayor having an "affair" with a 14-year-old girl...

  • badpenny (unverified)

    Anyone else catch the analyst on kgw stating how he thought Kerry campaign was really setting itself up for failure by predicting 25,000? He went on to say how it would be a resounding success if 10,000 showed up.

    You would have expected them to be virtually shitting themselves on air once it exceeded thirty, but of course, they were too busy showing us Bush conversing with a fella who's company had expanded over the pass four years, creating jobs... making tortillas in canada.

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    And a facet of that story that really is news were the number of young people there. The 18-24 voter bloc may for the first time in years turn out in larger numbers--possibly a lot larger--than their predecessors. While Bush ran his anti-democratic dog and pony show for the zealots, Kerry had a legitimate big-tent gathering. That so many young people decided to turn out is really big news.

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    Jeff, while there has been a long-term downward slide in turnout for the 18-24 demo, there was one upward tick in the trend. That's right: in 1992, the last time a President Bush was running for re-election.

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    That's true--it was also the first uptick in general election numbers after a steady slide from 1968. But it was followed up by an all-time low in '96. Let's hope the vote is up overall (always a benefit to liberal politics) and that if young people are getting interested in politics now, it's not just a passing fancy, as it clearly was in 1992.

  • Lauren (unverified)

    It's not just 18-24. My 16-year-old sister and about six of her friends, with no prompting from me, were just about dying with anticipation for the rally. They talk about the Johns like they are movie stars.

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    There is a decent article about young voters in today's Bend Bulletin:

  • Leslie Carlson (unverified)

    I'm not sure why the Oregonian refuses to print crowd estimates, but it appears to be some sort of newsroom policy. I worked on the Dalai Lama's appearance at Pioneer Courthouse Square in 2001, where the police estimated we had an attendance of 20,000 to 25,000. For some unknown reason, the Oregonian reporter (and her editor) writing about the event would not print the police estimate, having deemed it too large. (Why they thought the police would overestimate a crowd number was a mystery to me.)

    The O eventually settled on reporting a crowd size of 12,000, a number picked entirely out of the air and one that did not do justice to the crowd's size.

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    The Repubs were rocked back on their heels by the turnout though.

    The best counterspin they could muster was that the crowds were really there for DiCaprio and Bon Jovi. I don't think Bon Jovi ever turned out a crowd this size back when he had big hair.


    A curious point about the Oregonian's eternal quest for objectivity and balance showed up in the Sunday paper's letters section in the little gray box.

    Hot Topic: The presidential election-419 letters

    Pro Kerry: 296 Pro Bush: 105 Neutral: 18

    Of the letters published on the same page as these statistics, three were pro Bush and three were pro Kerry.

    Balance. Who could be against that?

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    The best counterspin they could muster was that the crowds were really there for DiCaprio and Bon Jovi.

    Isn't that a hoot? Meanwhile, The Oregonian reported today that the turnout may have been a state record for a political rally.

  • Matt (unverified)

    Just discovered this site, its kinda like finding that out of the way restaurant that will hopefully become your weekend breakfast place.

    Anyhow, what I was amazed by was this piece ( by David Risser with the Statesman Journal. While he does seem to accept fault for their layout decisions regarding the Kerry Rally (Bush was prominent above the fold and on the front page of the Business section the day after the dual visit to the state) he also sells the myth that the rally was a rock concert.

    Here's an snipit

    "On the second issue, as some Kerry supporters have it, the record “voluntary” turnout for the senator from Massachusetts and the “invitation-only” turnout for Bush demand equal billing, if not greater billing for the Kerry event.

    I don’t buy it.

    After getting huge notice as the only presidential candidate visiting Oregon on Thursday, Kerry and his supporters had a public rock concert on the riverfront in a hugely Democratic city. A lot of people showed up. Go figure."

    Talk about an understatement. I think one of the major reasons people don't get as involved in politics is that actions such as these are rearely about them. When 50,000 people come together on a week day it should be at least worth noting. I mean, that's pretty impressive.

    That isn't to say that our critiques of journalism are always right on but, in this case the framing of the event showed either a complete lack of knowledge of Oregon's recent political history or a lack of interest in the people who are making this election year work.

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    I know a couple of the Statesman editors. They get an unbelievable amount of flack if they don't give equal treatment. I mean there are really folks out there who pull out the rulers to measure the length of columns. Yes, there are some members of the public that are that anal retentive.

    I'd give David and crew the benefit of the doubt. There are good people working there.

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