Trifecta: Politico, WSJ and AP Report Obama Crowd in Wis. of About 5,000 as 18,000

September 23rd, 2012 11:59 PM

Saturday, Joel Pollak at Breitbart's Big Journalism observed that President Obama is having some trouble drawing big crowds these days, and that the national press is exaggerating the turnout at his events.

He specifically cited the situation this weekend where Politico and the Wall Street Journal claimed there were "18,000 people inside a 5,000-seat arena at an Obama event in Milwaukee on Saturday." I looked at the Associated Press's national site, and the AP did the same thing, while adding that the crowd with the made-up size was "the largest yet of Obama's reelection campaign." Really.

Here is some of Pollak's narrative:

The contradiction was first noted by battlegroundwatch.comLocal media, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reported that Obama had addressed "supporters who filled the 5,000-seat BMO Harris Pavilion, along with thousands more who sat in bleachers and stood on the pavement beyond the protection of the roof, even as wind and rain lashed down in the latter moments of the near 30-minute speech."

The pavilion was not "filled"--a local reporter for filmed empty seats in the bleachers at the side of the arena (see above). Nevertheless, the Journal-Sentinal played it safe, putting attendance at roughly 5,000-plus, a small but respectable turnout.

That's not how national media covered it. Darren Samuelsohn of Politico reported that the president addressed "a crowd the Obama campaign estimated at 18,000 in a city park overlooking Lake Michigan" in an attempt to "lock up" Wisconsin.

Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal--whose news section, according to UCLA professor Tim Groseclose, is the most liberal of any major mainstream outlet--repeated the campaign's 18,000 claim without even revealing the source of the official-sounding estimate.

Both outlets described the location of the rally as a "park," without revealing the name of the arena itself, which would have given the game away.

The images provided by news wires are predominantly close-up shots ... showing Obama surrounded by a small circle of supporters. Only Getty Images has a wider shot, similar to images at the left-wing message board Democratic Underground that show the inside of the arena. That's a full-ish arena, but nowhere near 18,000 people.

There seem to be no images at all of the 13,000 people who supposedly made up the difference outside the BMO Harris Pavilion.

Here are several paragraphs from each of the national media sources:

Politico --

Speaking to a crowd the Obama campaign estimated at 18,000 in a city park overlooking Lake Michigan, the president reminded Wisconsin voters that he’s still their bratwurst-loving neighbor who longed to make the short drive to his home in Chicago. “An hour and a half—maybe a little shorter with the motorcade,” he said.

But Obama kept closely to his standard stump speech, dropping little in the way of a localized pitch beyond joking about the ribbing he’d just taken from two supporters who were joining him on stage — Green Bay Packers stars Jermichael Finley and Desmond Bishop — over their recent wins against his beloved Chicago Bears.

“It just goes to show you, we’re not as divided as some people say,” Obama told the football-partisan crowd. “We are not Bears fans first or Packers fans first. We are Americans first.”

Wall Street Journal --

President Barack Obama worked Saturday to shore up support in Wisconsin, a state his campaign didn’t even view as a battleground until recently. At a large rally in Milwaukee and a pair of fundraisers, Mr. Obama brought his case that he, and not Republican rival Mitt Romney, would protect the middle class.

As he addressed the crowd estimated at 18,000 people at the Henry Maier Festival Park, the rain came down and the wind picked up.

“I know you’re getting wet, but I’ve got one more thing to say,” he said. “A little rain never hurt anybody.” He went on to make several additional points before wrapping it up with an added campaign promise: “The sun is going to come out!”

Associated Press (no byline) --

The crowd of about 18,000 in a steady drizzle was the largest yet of Obama's reelection campaign. It was Obama's first appearance in Wisconsin since February.

At the rally and at two fundraising events in the state, Obama resurrected the promise at his nominating convention to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs. Wisconsin is better off than many states with a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, has seen its manufacturing industry hard hit in recent years.

While inflating Obama's turnouts, the press in at least one instance vastly understated the number of attendees at a Paul Ryan rally at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Politico and the Associated Press claimed that several hundred heard Ryan speak, while every local outlet cited "thousands," including one which noted the Secret Service's estimate of 5,500, and another which noted that "a whole line of people were turned away, because there wasn't enough room."

Back to Pollak for a final word:

If Obama were really doing so well, why would the media have to resort to such distortions?

And why would he be in Wisconsin in the first place?


Cross-posted at