(crossposted from Buffalo Ridge Blog )
Yup, this is Florida's week in the sun(?), as the four survivors of the seven dwarfs AKA the republican presidential candidates are making the rounds. The other day we were underwhelmed with Newt, today it was Mitt's turn to enable noontime napping...Too bad there wasn't anyplace to lay down at the event.
Let's set the scene: Downtown Naples, home to twenty odd thousand seniors, who reported to the census a per capita mean income of upwards of $70,000 a year. Given that the local retailers report sales of around the same $70,000 per resident, one gets the feeling that either a lot of income is going unreported, or the unlikely possibility that "trickle-down" is actually working. That number may be inflated a bit by Naples being a shopping center, but given that every luxury car maker has at least one dealer in Naples, that number doesn't seem out of line. So this should be a very friendly town for a business type republican with a low tax bracket like Mitt. Given that demographic, one can make a pretty good guess why Mitt's first public event today wasn't 'til noon and I didn't see Mitt arrive... can you say "big dollar fundraising brunch"?
Probably hoping to avoid a crowd size comparison with the site that Newt used the other day, Matt's advance team made a questionable pick- the 50 foot wide and maybe hundred foot long plaza in front of a local theater, hemmed in by multi story buildings on both sides. To make matters worse, they set up the risers for the media barely thirty feet from the stage, with "VIP" seating for Mitt supporters between the stage and risers. That meant that everyone else was lucky to see Mitt's head pop up once in a while. That left the crowd with the 50 foot square space behind the media on the risers and a few more that spilled onto the street behind that Naple's police had closed off to traffic. So 5000 square feet of crowd divided by the usual 10 square feet per older white republican gives us a crowd estimate of 500, barely half what Newt drew.
And a politicly casual crowd they pretty much were, many of them snowbirds from out of state- I talked to a family from downstate Illinois and a gentleman from Vermont (Hi Harry!), but eligible to vote Floridians were scarce. Much the same hangers on- vendors, Santorum supporters, and Occupy activists that made the Newt event were back, save for the Ron Paul protesters... Does that mean Romney is their second choice? And like Newt's event, the enthusiasm gap was real- a paucity of signs, T-shirts, etc. that belies commitment to a candidate. The most popular political wearable was a "Fire Obama" sticker, the guy handing them out started with a big wad of them and at the end of the event still had almost as big a wad of them.
It's a good thing Mitt started on time, because he had not even a poor excuse for a band and few endorsers to kill time for him. And it was all downhill from there... No new pronouncements, no firey rhetoric, just fifteen minutes of canned stump speech. Then he actually shook hands... but only the hands of the hundred or so VIP solid supporters that rated seating with actual sight lines to Mitt. I finally left, who knows, Mitt may still be there shaking the same hundred followers hands.
For a town that was made for Mitt... Think elderly "stock coupon clipper" republicans, this was a poor showing. Then again, Newt didn't, for all his growling, produce any more enthusiam. And for all the money Mitt's campaign spent (they needed a semi trailer to haul all their stage and sound gear), Mitt's campaign team blew it on the basics... Kinda hard to win over voters when they can't see you over the media!
Two more days and the misery will be over... For Florida. But I'm heading back to the Buffalo Ridge next weekend, and looks like the surviving three or four of the seven dwarfs will be following me back. Fortunately we've got no rich republicans nor abundance of republican base on the Buffalo Ridge...