Trump Rallies Draw Huge Crowds. Does It Matter?

America First Trump rally (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)
Joel Pollak / Breitbart News

EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin — Donald Trump has been drawing large, capacity crowds at his rallies across the country over the past week, dwarfing — by far — most of the crowds at Hillary Clinton events.

But the evidence from new voter registration and early voting leans somewhat in Clinton’s favor, overall.

That raises the question: do Trump’s crowds mean anything — and if so, what?

“Crowds don’t vote,” as the saying goes. Nowhere was that more true than in the Democratic primary in California. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) drew massive audiences all across the Golden State, filing stadiums and leaving many thousands outside.

The polls were also close, showing Sanders catching up to Clinton even reaching a dead heat in some instances.

But in the end, Clinton out-performed the polls, trouncing Sanders soundly — by double-digits.

The fact is that Hillary Clinton has had years — decades, even — to build an organization, and has a ground game that Donald Trump could not hope to match even if he had tried. So while Sanders was wowing the crowds — and the media — with his big rallies, Clinton was quietly making sure voters showed up at the polls or mailed in their ballots. That quiet, disciplined work paid off handsomely.

Trump has several advantages that Sanders does not. For one thing, Sanders relied heavily on younger voters, who are among the least likely to vote in the end.

But the idea that Trump can win still depends largely on the idea that there are “hidden Trump” voters who are not showing up in the polls and who will turn out in significant numbers on Election Day.

That could very well be the case — but it is impossible, by definition, to say with any degree of certainty.

In addition, the crowds at Trump rallies are not necessarily indications of broader support. All we know is that they are evidence that he has an energized core of fans. They may be more energized now, after the FBI re-opened its investigation into Clinton’s email server, and after Clinton was caught cheating in the primary debates, and so on.

Yet many of the people at Trump’s rallies are long-time supporters. It is likely that a large rally does have some effect on voters in the surrounding area — otherwise, Clinton herself would not bother doing them — but Clinton’s “bird-dogging” has turned some of that effect negative. (Even today, after the success of James O’Keefe and Project Veritas in exposing the truth, many — perhaps most — Democrats still think Donald Trump incited violence at his rallies, and view his events with horror.)

In the absence of a ground game that can compete with Clinton’s, Trump’s best hope may be that her own volunteers lose faith.

There is some evidence to suggest that is a real risk. After the email scandal flared anew, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta wrote an email to Clinton supporters, telling them to buck up (and asking for money). “Here’s what this changes for you and this campaign: Absolutely nothing,” he wrote.

If Podesta really is worried, Trump’s crowds have more reason to cheer.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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