Report from Bucks County

Reader Martin Karo writes from Yardley, Pennsylvania:

I wasn’t expecting much from Romney’s Yardley rally; Bucks County was very hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, a large number of locals still lack electric power (including me), and the weather took a nasty cold snap. The cloud ceiling was rain-threateningly low, the air damp with a brisk wind. Anyone with any sense (and no power) would have been elsewhere, and without electricity it was pretty hard to disseminate news of the rally.

I was hearteningly, amazingly wrong. The crowd was enormous. The first picture attached was of the line at security. That “line” is about 50 people abreast — off to the left you can see one half of one tent; there were two, side by side, filled edge to edge with metal detectors — and it wasn’t yet 4 PM. Traffic was backed up for miles, literally, on nearby I-95. And people kept coming. And coming. And coming. The crowd was upbeat and feisty — two signs I recall were “No Heat/No Power/and in two days/No Obama,” and “Buck Ofama.”

As of this writing I have heard no official crowd size estimates. I have no relevant training, and unlike, say, Red Rocks, there was no vantage point from which you could see the entire crowd. The rally was in a large field, and the crowd simply sprawled in three directions. My estimate, based on other crowd estimates, is that eventually there were about 25k people there, not counting ones I couldn’t see because they came very late and trailed off in the darkness, and not counting the several thousand who had no tickets and watched from outside the Hurricane fence. The second picture was taken from my vantage point during the Romney presentation — and there were at least as many people behind me as there were in front. And at least equal numbers directly in front of him, and the same off to his left front.

And it was cold. In the upper 30s, which doesn’t sound so bad in the abstract, but it was bitterly cold to people who had been standing in the cold for hours, and especially bitter to folks who had had no heat for almost a week. With a brisk wind to add to the misery. The wait grew longer and longer. And to be blunt, the Marshall Tucker Band had limited success perking up the waiting throng, and the speakers who stood up next — former Governor Tom Ridge, Senator Pat Toomey, and current Governor Tom Corbett — had a little more success, especially Corbett. But Corbett ran out of anecdotes, and the crowd became silent and stolid. After an interval, a pair of Romney videos played, well received, but after they ended, the same stolid silence descended. I was beginning to fear the rally would be a bust. But nobody left; like the next stage of enduring the hurricane and the aftermath, everyone simply waited quietly in the cold.

And then the bus appeared.

And then the cheering started.

Ragged at first, the cheers swelled to a roar as the Romney campaign bus wheeled into the arena. Mitt and Ann Romney emerged, and it was like a wall of sound fell on the crowd. The Romneys strode to the stage, embraced, and after immediate pleasantries, Ann introduced Mitt.

I keep hearing how wooden Romney is on the stump. They must have meant some other Romney. This one was fluid, his voice at turns powerful and emotional. I don’t know how the crowd noise came across on TV, but in person, it was its own physical presence, vibrating everyone with its intensity. Except when Romney grew sober when relating a sad anecdote; then the crowd simply disappeared, for both the speaker and the listener. A rousing crescendo of a conclusion by Romney, capped off by a surprisingly good fireworks display, and the rally was over. It took some people more than three hours to escape the traffic.

Romney didn’t say anything new. But he connected with the crowd on both emotional and intellectual levels. The man oozes resolve and commitment the way steelworkers ooze sweat. He clearly loves America, and radiates that love, in counterpoise to Obama, whose distaste for the nation remains palpable. (You can’t hate half the nation, urge your supporters to take *revenge* on half the nation, and still love the place and the people.) Based on the crowd size and reaction in a county that went solidly for Obama four years ago, based on the confidence of the man, I would say it’s likely Romney will indeed win Pennsylvania — and with it, the presidency. While you’d expect rally attendees to favor the candidate, their enthusiasm was something I did not sense at a McCain rally four years ago — and even after Romney’s rally, even after hours standing without seats in the cold, the attendees I spoke with were still bubbling with enthusiasm.

As for my own reaction, though I’m *still* chilled to the bone — did I mention it was cold? — I’m glad I went. Last summer, I was ready to support the strongest Republican challenger to Obama. After the debates, I was pleased to be able to support Romney the man. And after experiencing Romney in person, I’d walk barefoot through broken glass to vote for him.

Mr. Karo wrote a bit later to add this footnote:

I read on another site that someone heard booing, and a friend of mine who watched on TV also reported that. I was there, I would tell you if I heard any — especially since I am sure the crowd would have immediately roared over it, and I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if some Barack “Get In Their Faces” Obama plants snuck into the rally. But honestly, I didn’t hear any booing, and I was well enough positioned to hear it had there been any of significance. Nobody I spoke to after the rally mentioned any booing. There was no crowd reaction to any booing. And nobody was frog-marched out of there.

I can’t say to a metaphysical certainty that it didn’t happen, but I can tell you to an absolute certainty that if it happened, it was VERY isolated and had zero effect.

Thanks to Mr. Karo for his eyewitness report.

UPDATE: More with lots of good photos here.

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