Conservatives are questioning a widely reported crowd estimate of 18,000 for Obama’s rally Saturday on the Summerfest grounds.
The estimate originated with Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s office and was included in a pool report and provided by a Democratic campaign official to various media outlets, including WisPolitics.com.
But conservative commentators have taken issue with that estimate, noting the BMO Harris Pavilion, where the event was held, seats just 5,000 and videos show some empty seats. According the venue’s website, there are 5,000 seats and a standing area that holds another 5,000, but the standing area is not fenced in from the rest of the Summerfest grounds.
According to Barrett campaign aide Patrick Guarasci, the mayor stands behind his estimate, which, working with event organizers, was based on the number of tickets distributed and the observed crowd size. Guarasci said the crowd not only filled the seating and standing areas inside the venue, but extended outside of the venue perimeter.
“Anyone who would dispute that clearly didn't attend the rally,” Guarasci said, adding the event was “an extraordinary success” and that people may be trying to minimize the attendance figures for political gain.
When WisPolitics.com arrived just before 4:30 p.m., a compact line several people wide stretched along Harbor Drive from the Hank Aaron Trail to the south gate, a distance of about a half mile, according to Google Maps. As Sen. Herb Kohl spoke at about 4:45 p.m., the seating area appeared largely full and people were continuing to stream into the standing area, which appeared about half full at that time. Obama started speaking roughly 30 minutes later, but the attendance at that point was difficult to gauge because the standing area was not visible from the press seating area.