Mitt Romney drawing larger crowds

Mitt Romney looks at supporters during a campaign rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, North Carolina. | Reuters

The campaign has seen RSVPs for events increase 'drastically' after the first debate. | Reuters

SIDNEY, Ohio — It may be his supporters, or it may be those getting a glimpse of the GOP nominee for the first time, but Mitt Romney’s crowds are getting bigger in the campaign’s final stretch.

Since his strong presidential debate performance last Wednesday night, Romney has seen a bump in the number of people attending his rallies, which the campaign calls a sign of new enthusiasm in the final month of the campaign.

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In the past week alone, Romney’s campaign says at least three of its rallies have, per the campaign’s crowd counts, exceeded 10,000 people: an Oct. 4 event with country singer Trace Adkins in Fishersville, Va., which was Romney’s largest event ever at 14,000 people; a rally last Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., that drew 12,000; and one in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, that fire marshals estimated also drew 12,000.

Romney’s other rallies this week have been large as well: in Asheville, N.C., Thursday night, just before the vice presidential debate, Romney’s rally filled the venue and had an overflow crowd of about 8,000. The night before, a rally at the Shelby County Fairgrounds here in Sidney lured about 9,500 people.

The campaign has also seen RSVPs for its events increase “drastically” after the first debate, Romney spokesman Rick Gorka said.

“Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more fired up about this election, and fired up about Gov. Romney,” Gorka said. “The debate helped crystallize that energy and it’s translating to our events.”

With less than a month to go until Nov. 6, the standing-room only crowds could simply mean that excited partisans are finally ready to cast their ballot for their guy at the end of a long campaign. President Barack Obama is also drawing large numbers of people to his rallies, but that’s nothing new for a candidate known as a charismatic speaker, though it does mean his supporters are also fired up. And large crowds are not a reliable sign that a candidate is headed to victory.

John Kerry got huge crowds in the weeks before the 2004 presidential election — one event, in Philadelphia with Bill Clinton, was estimated at 80,000 to 100,000 — but the Democrat ultimately ended up losing on Election Day.

“When a big election gets close, every serious candidate can produce great crowds with the right notice and the right advance work,” Democratic strategist Jonathan Prince said. “That was true for John McCain in 2008 — and John Edwards in the 2008 primaries, and we know what those crowds signified about results! Frankly, if you’re at all arguably serious to win and don’t have big crowds in the final weeks, your staff isn’t doing its job.”

The people at the Romney post-debate events are energetic. In Cuyahoga Falls, for example, people turned out and waited for hours despite the chilly weather.

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