The Obama campaign has been seeing ever smaller crowds come out to its rallies. For example, at the convention, ostensibly due to predicted rain which didn't materialze, the final night was moved indoors to a venue that was 1/4 the size. According to the campaign, this is intentional:
“We have plenty of time for big rallies,” a campaign spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said between the rallies on Thursday. “Our focus right now is on exciting our supporters and winning over undecided voters and the smaller and medium-size events are the best venue to accomplish that because the president can closely engage with the crowd."
Big rallies are expensive, especially given the logistical and security challenges for a president as opposed to a mere United States senator. And Obama campaign operatives, both at the Chicago headquarters and in swing states where Mr. Obama recently has stumped, say the campaign intentionally limits crowds by restricting tickets. The reason is to allow the president to better connect with supporters, aides say.[emphasis added]
One of the cardinal rules of political events is to keep the venue smaller than the crowd you expect to draw. In other words, if your candidate can only draw six people to an event, hold it in a broom closet--that way the press coverage will show people pushing and shoving, desperate to get into the event! Under no circumstances do you want to show empty seats.
For many pundits, this calls to mind the quintessential mockumentary, "This is Spinal Tap." If you aren't familiar with "Spinal Tap" it follows the trajectory of an aging heavy metal rock band trying to recapture its past and continually fading glory. As they embark on a new world tour, they find the reception to their music to be lukewarm--essentially holdovers from their glory years. Here is the exchange in the movie about the ever-shrinking crowds:
Marty: The last time Tap toured America, they were booked into 10,000 seat arenas, and 15,000 seat venues, and it seems that now, on their current tour they’re being booked into 1,200 seat arenas, 1,500 seat arenas, and uh I was just wondering, does this mean uh…the popularity of the group is waning?
Ian: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no…no, no, not at all. I, I, I just think that the.. uh.. their appeal is becoming more selective.
Heh. "Their appeal has become more selective." You mean, like, down in the polls?