Trump’s obsession with crowd sizes, explained

Late Friday night, President Trump continued his obsession with crowd size, tweeting not once, not twice, but thrice about the number of people at his rally in New Hampshire the previous day. The tweets seemingly came in response to a trending hashtag that claimed the arena was not as packed as the president had boasted.“Placed was maxed out, totally packed, with thousands coming to the arena floor at start,” the president tweeted. “Thousands more outside that were not allowed in per code. Energy was really great to see.” A minute later, Trump tweeted a photo of the crowd at the rally, and demanded that his followers “Look at the tremendous overflow at packed arena in New Hampshire last night.”> Look at the tremendous overflow at packed arena in New Hampshire last night. Sorry we couldn’t get you in, will be back soon!> > — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2019And then 25 minutes after that, Trump tweeted that he had broken a crowd record at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena, where the rally took place.“Biggest crowd EVER, according to Arena people. Thousands outside trying to get in. Place was packed!” Trump tweeted about the Manchester, New Hampshire stadium. “Radical Left Dems & their Partner, LameStream Media, saying Arena empty. Check out pictures. Fake News. The Enemy of the People!”Trump’s polemic against the media likely referred to a viral tweet that incorporated a clip of MSNBC’s coverage of his New Hampshire speech; in the clip, a number of empty seats can be seen.By Friday evening, more than 70,000 tweets with the the hashtag #EmptySeatMAGATour, many of them with links to similar video footage and photos apparently showing empty seats at Trump’s rally, had pushed the hashtag to the top of Twitter’s trending topics.Trump’s tweets were in fact reiterations of a claim he made the day before, in which he bragged about breaking the record at the arena previously held by singer Elton John. Despite the empty seats, it would appear he did indeed break the musician’s record — Manchester’s deputy fire marshal told the Daily Mail that a little more than 11,500 people were in the arena to hear the president speak; John had a few hundred less at his performance at the venue. However, if the fire marshal’s count was correct, Trump still would have had some empty seats. The Hill reports the venue has a capacity of 11,770, which would make Trump’s assertions of having had a record breaking audience and his critics’ claims that he failed to fill the arena both true. The marshal also told the Mail the president had about 8,000 people fill the overflow space.Holding the new attendance record alone did not seem to be enough for Trump, however. A quick scan of his timeline shows that on Thursday he actually tweeted or retweeted remarks about the size and enthusiasm of the crowd at his rally at least five times. In summary: That makes eight tweets about his crowd size in 24 hours — not including several more tweets showing flattering video footage and photos of the crowds without explicit text about the size of them.Trump has been obsessed with crowd size for a long timeEven the most casual observer of Trump knows he has an obsession with talking about crowd size. He can be wildly unpredictable on policy, but he’s remarkably consistent in his dedication to talking about how big of an audience he can draw.As some analysts point out, Trump seems to delight in working a big crowd because his rallies serve as a kind of therapeutic escape from the daily grind of politics. But his relentless public emphasis on the size of his audiences in fact serves a deeply political function: his crowds offer a tangible display of popularity even when his poll numbers are low.Trump’s obsession with crowd size as president started the very day he was sworn into office. Photos and video footage of Trump’s inauguration in 2017 showed that the National Mall was notably empty during the swearing in; crowd scientists estimated that Trump drew an audience about a third of the size of Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. But immediately after the inauguration, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer i ...Read more

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