People Walking Out on Obama Campaign Speeches?

Yahoo has given a click-bait headline to a Reuters report, "Obama makes rare campaign trail appearance, people leave early."

Yahoo has given a click-bait headline to a Reuters report, “Obama makes rare campaign trail appearance, people leave early.” The lede:

President Barack Obama made a rare appearance on the campaign trail on Sunday with a rally to support the Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland, but early departures of crowd members while he spoke underscored his continuing unpopularity.

There’s no more information in the piece about the departures. How many left out of how many? Is there evidence that Obama’s speech was what drove them away and not, say, the Ravens game?

No doubt, the president has some very low poll numbers. But his job approval among Democrats—presumably the main participants at a rally for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate—remains quite high, at 73 percent in the most recent national poll. It strikes me as unlikely that large numbers of people would have left because Obama was there. Indeed, if his appearance was advertised in advance, one presumes that a large number of people who would not otherwise have attended a political rally on an October Sunday were in the crowd just to get a glimpse.\

UPDATE: Commenter Nikki points me to a report (“President Obama Campaigns For Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown In Md.”) from the Baltimore CBS affiliate which gives on a decidedly different take on the story. The relevant portions:

Less than three weeks to go until Marylanders hit the voting booths to cast their ballots. One of the men who wants to be governor is getting a big show of support from the president.

Derek Valcourt explains the rally drew a huge crowd of thousands waiting to see the president.

There were so many people at the rally that some of them couldn’t even get in. As expected, the president said Anthony Brown was the right man for the job in a rally that was all about revving up energy for the Democrat’s campaign.

They waited for hours in long lines. Nearly 8,000 people packed an Upper Marlboro high school auditorium for a rally in support of Anthony Brown’s bid to become governor.


Some of Brown’s supporters and even a few undecideds say hearing from the president means a lot.

“If the president is behind him, he must be doing something great,” said Carlton Davids.

“It just shows he’s a formidable candidate,” said Sheila Hayes.

“I was not sure which way I was going to go, but I arrived for Obama. So if he’s going there, I’m going there with him,” Ogbonna Hopkins said.

Now, it’s still possible some number of people left before the event’s conclusion, possibly even before the conclusion of the president’s speech. But this certainly doesn’t read like there was some sort of mass exodus.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. This happened in Virginia last year too when they scheduled a rally with Terry McAuliffe and the President for a Sunday in October when the Redskins are playing. The scheduling struck me as odd then and it does now. Given the area where this rally was, Upper Marlboro, you’re talking about both potential Redskins and Ravens fans who maybe wanted to show up, see the President, and then get home and watch the game.

    As I thought when this happened last year, I’m not sure why the rally wasn’t just held on a Saturday, or even a weekday.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Democrats are Redskins fans? Doesn’t seem likely.

    OTOH, it doesn’t seem likely that people would make the effort to go see the President and leave early. I assume there is a bit of a security issue and parking hassle. Republican dirty tricks?

  3. @PD Shaw:

    People who live in the DC/Baltimore area are Redskins or Ravens fans, I don’t think it has anything to do with politics.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m likely overreading the hostility to football and the Redskins in particular in the progressive blogosphere. You know, the abnormal people. Looks like Washington has the second best attendance so far this year.

  5. wr says:

    @PD Shaw: No, no, you’re right. All liberals hate football. It’s right up there along with apple pie, kittens, and freedom, three things we want to see abolished from the world.

    You see, anything you like liberals hate. That’s what makes us liberals.

  6. Nikki says:

    CBS Baltimore had an entirely different take on the rally than the Reuters article put out.

    I wonder why Reuters would give such a different and more negative perspective of Obama at a political rally than a local affiliate did?

  7. PD Shaw says:

    @wr: Meh, we’ve had a number of posters unwilling to write the word “redskins,” and being extremely critical of the NFL while admitting that they have little or no interest in football any more. I think the group passionate about football and passionate about a political rally probably don’t overlap that much.

    I’ve gone to an Obama rally, and am not that interested in football. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Politico’s Jennifer Epstein was at the rally, and was astonished to see people walking out. She couldn’t figure out why anyone would leave an Obama speech early.

    Apparently this professional journalist was so stunned she couldn’t think to ask them.

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I think the group passionate about football and passionate about a political rally probably don’t overlap that much.

    I’m not sure that’s at all accurate, nor do I understand where you get that idea from.

  10. ernieyeball says:

    Mr. Shaw states:

    I think the group passionate about football and passionate about a political rally probably don’t overlap that much.

    I am a Cub fan, a Bulls fan, a Bears fan and an anarchist. Go figure.
    See Haymarket massacre. May 4th 1886

    It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers by the police, the previous day. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded.

  11. wr says:

    @PD Shaw: “. I think the group passionate about football and passionate about a political rally probably don’t overlap that much.”

    I have a close friend whose two great passions in life are liberal politics and Ol’ Miss football. (Well, all college football, but Ol’ Miss most of all.) He’s a proud Southerner and a lifelong Democrat.

    Because, shockingly, humans being don’t all go into those nice little boxes…

  12. Pinky says:

    It’s probably true that there was a campaign event yesterday, and that more than one person was somewhere near a door at some point. Anything more than that, and we’re taking the word of a reporter.

  13. ernieyeball says:

    @wr:.. human beings don’t all go into those nice little boxes…

    Some people are enamored with themselves and believe that they are “above all that” when it comes to sports. They usually bore me to death.

  14. Grewgills says:

    I don’t think most find themselves above it so much as bewildered by it or just disinterested. I have no interest in most any sport unless I have bet on it for some reason. It’s not because I’m above it, I just spend my free time on different things. Me being bored by someone going on at length about a topic I don’t care about (who played who and how it turned out) can be perceived by some as thinking I’m above it I guess, but that’s more on them than on me.

  15. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills:..I don’t think most find themselves above it…

    That’s why I qualified my statement by writing “some people.”

  16. Tyrell says:

    There may very well be some other explanations. One is that people routinely leave certain events early: concerts, games, shows. Some want to hit the various souvenir booths and buy shirts, books, albums, caps, etc. Others want to beat the traffic jams that occur, and when the president comes to town, everything is shut down. One person told me that they went to a presidential rally a few years ago, and when it was over security procedures required that all the people had to remain for around 30 minutes to give the president a head start and clearer roads.
    So this is not necessarily any displeasure or boredom with the president’s speeches. That is the way people are now a days. Also, shorter attention spans also are responsible.
    I am Democrat and a Redskins fan from the days of Sonny Jergunsen, Sam Huff, Bill Kilmer, and the incomparable Mark Mosely. I don’t care what Mr. Snyder calls them What we care about is the won / loss record. This team name thing is a diversion away from Mr. Snyder’s sorry management record. Bring us a Lombardi Trophy back to D.C. !!

  17. Pinky says:

    @Tyrell: Never gonna happen under Dan Snyder. He’s the worst kind of owner, the kind who thinks he’s always got a brilliant idea to turn the team around.

  18. Barry says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “Apparently this professional journalist was so stunned she couldn’t think to ask them.”

    Jenos, I do like your comment (and the dry snark), but the statement answers itself – she’s not a professional journalist, she’s a hack working for Politico.

  19. Eric Florack says:

    A huge majority of those polled in one I’ve seen recently opined that the Skins name should be left the hell alone. Now, you’d have to figure that at least a fair amount of them were/are Democrats. (Shrug) Perhaps the Dem rank and file isn’t quite so worried as your leadership would have you believe.

    As for folks walking out, I noted a video of that happening that a reader sent me. I’ll see if I can’t find that link again.

  20. Eric Florack says: