Monday, October 6, 2008

Bloom Off the Palin Rose in Pinellas

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made her debut in Florida's all important I-4 Corridor today. Her morning rally was held in Clearwater's Coachman Park. The park is best known as home of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Given the Jazz Holiday's long history in the park, it ought to be safe to say that the Clearwater Police Department has a pretty good handle on crowd sizes in the park.

Given all the buzz about the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, it was a little bit shocking to hear that the Clearwater PD estimated today's crowd for Palin at 4,500. Interestingly, the Republican Party continues its pathetic attempt to overstate the size of Palin's crowds:
Clearwater PD estimated 4,500 people attended, though local party says it was more like 10,000.
But those claims are belied by comments like this:
My brother who was at the rally said they moved all the people over to one side so as to make it appear more full so they could take some pictures.

It made him mad because there was plenty of room to stretch out on the other side. It was completely empty (Note: The park holds 12,000 people.)
And this:
Dominic Grillo, 76, of Dunedin, saw Obama when he spoke at Knology Park two weeks ago. (Note: Barack Obama drew 11,000 just up the road in Dunedin). Curiosity caused him to ride his bike down the Pinellas Trail to Clearwater. He said he wouldn't wait in line to see Palin, but when there were no lines, he decided to join the throng.
So, what does this all mean besides some fun ticky tack back and forth stuff about crowd sizes? Pinellas is the western most county of Florida's infamous I-4 Corridor, the real swing area of the state. And Pinellas County is the swing county of the swing area of the state. Pinellas is almost evenly split in voter registrations with about 245 thousand Ds, 237 thousand Rs and 154 thousand independents. When Al Gore won Florida in 2000 he carried Pinellas by 15,000 votes. When George Bush won Florida in 2004, he carried Pinellas by the scant margin of 226 votes.

The fact that the "magnetic" Palin could only scare up 4,500 in this crucial swing area of Florida can not be a good sign for the McCain campaign.