Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren spoke in front of 15,000 people at a campaign rally in Seattle, Washington.
It was, by her campaign’s estimates, the single largest crowd the Massachusetts Senator has drawn in her nearly year-long quest to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. (The 15,000 number came from Warren’s campaign so take it with a grain of salt. But it’s clear from the photos there were a WHOLE lot of people there.)
And, the Seattle crowd wasn’t an anomaly. In St. Paul, Minnesota last week, Warren’s campaign estimated 12,000 people turned out to see her. She had an estimated 4,000 people at a town hall in Los Angeles earlier this month.
So, what does crowd size tell us – exactly?
Well, that depends. Politicos will remember that in the late stages of the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney was convinced he was going to beat President Obama because – at least in part – the size of the crowds coming to his rallies. Romney didn’t win – or even come close.
On the other hand, the massive crowds that Obama was able to draw – both as a surrogate for other candidates in the 2006 cycle and then in his own right as a presidential contender in 2008 – were a telling indicator of the organic passion and energy he was creating within the electorate.
Where do Warren’s crowds fit on that spectrum between Romney’s false positive and Obama’s, uh, true, positive? It’s hard to say definitely at the moment but here’s what we know:
1. Being able to attract 15,000 people to a campaign rally in late August of an off year is pretty impressive
2. Crowd size, particularly in a primary, is a generally consistent indicator of organic energy
3. Polling – including a new Monmouth University national poll released on Monday – suggests Warren is on the rise
When you factor in that context, Warren’s crowds of late almost certainly are an indicator of genuine momentum and excitement surrounding her candidacy. No matter what any of her rivals might say behind closed doors (or in public) about what Warren’s crowds mean (or don’t mean), you can be sure that each and every one of them would LOVE to be able to draw in the numbers that the Massachusetts Senator is right now.
The Point: Yes, it’s August 2019, not February 2020. But, Warren is on a major roll – and her ballooning crowd sizes are a reflection of that momentum.