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October 18, 2008

Country? Fever. Prescription? More Palin.

Here is an e-mail I received from tipster "Patrick" who volunteered at the Noblesville event discussed below. I think it does a great job of capturing the mood and the spirit of those who are attending not just this rally, but all of the rallies in recent weeks.

Bear this in mind when you read Patrick's account: The attendance at the GOP Convention was in the 20,000-22,000 range. Palin is matching that over and over again.

It's pretty impressive when the VP candidate can hold the equivalent of a National Convention in every state she visits.

Regarding the event itself, here are my observations:

The press reports I have seen estimated the crowd at somewhere between15,000 to 24,000. I think those are all low. I canít estimate a crowd well, but the rally was held at a concert venue with an official capacity of 24,000. I asked members of the venue security staff to estimate the crowd size and they all said it was overcapacity, which was something that troubled them from a security/crowd control stand point. The large lawn that is normally full of blankets and lawn chairs during a concert was 75% to 80% full of people standing.

One security guard (who told me he was undecided in this election) estimated the crowd at 28,000 to 30,000. The same security guard also worked the Obama rally held last week in Indianapolis (different venue) and he estimated that crowd at around 20,000 (which was consistent with the Obamaís campaignís estimate of 21,000).

Even though the rally was not set to begin until 4:30, people started showing up early in the morning to get in line. I got there at 11 am and there were already several hundred people waiting . By 12:30, I could not see the end of the line from the front gate.

The crowd absolutely loved Sarah. They were every bit as enthusiastic as the crowd at the convention, except this was full of regular people instead of just party faithful. Everyone wanted a sign, flag, pom-pom, or something to wave. We would literally open a box of something and it would be empty in just a couple of minutes. If anything, the campaign way underestimated the demand for things to wave.

I would estimate the crowd was at least 60% - 40% female to male, if not higher. There were a lot of little babies and a lot of special needs kids. It was very obvious from watching the crowd that Sarah Palin has connected with women, the pro-life movement, and special needs communities in a very deep and personal way.

There were also a lot of vets in attendance and they were repeatedly honored both formerly and informally. For example, before the rally began and people were still finding seats, there were several times that the crowd broke out in spontaneous applause because a vet was crossing the stage to get to his seat. These were heartfelt and enthusiastic demonstrations of gratitude from people who truly love and support the troops.

After her speech was over, Palin went into the crowd and stayed for at least half an hour signing autographs, holding babies, and shaking hands. There were several thousand people still there when she had to leave shortly before 7 pm. Bear in mind that for many of these people this was a twelve hour or more event when you factor in all the time they spent driving here, waiting in line to get in, waiting for the rally to start, etc...

I think it is hard to understate how much Sarah Palin has energized the Republican base and how invested they are in her as a candidate and a person, in ways they havenít been about John McCain. One of the most common things I heard from people was that they wished McCain would let Palin off the leash and let her do her thing.

While Palin was inspiring 25,000 people , Peggy Noonan sent her ladyfinger sandwich back to the Country Club chef to demand more watercress.

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posted by Jack M. at 10:18 AM

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