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Humongous crowd greets Barack Obama in St. Louis; that might worry his campaign

October 18, 2008 |  4:50 pm

The advance crew for a Barack Obama rally in St. Louis on Saturday certainly performed above and beyond -- a throng estimated at 100,000, a figure a police official signed off on, jammed into the area around the city's Gateway Arch to hear the candidate hold forth. (See the video by clicking on the Read more line below.) Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama shakes hands with a small portion of the overflow crowd for his apperance in St. Louis 

A large gathering also was massing in the evening for an Obama appearance across the state in Kansas City.

But rather than get a raise, might those hard-working Obama staffers in Missouri need to fear for their jobs?

We ask, mainly in jest, to offer a reminder that big crowds have not necessarily been a boon for the Democratic presidential candidate. Consider:

** The weekend before the New Hampshire primary in early January, much of the buzz concerned the packed houses awaiting Obama as he traversed the state. On primary day, he suffered a stunning upset loss to Hillary Clinton.

** A few days before Pennsylvania's April primary, Obama attracted an overflow crowd -- widely estimated at 35,000 -- to downtown Philadelphia. On primary day, Clinton easily bested him.

** His largest audience to date -- roughly 200,000 -- was recorded overseas, for his much-touted speech in Berlin in late July. John McCain's brain trust effectively used that against Obama as part of its late-summer ad campaign.

** That Obama attracted 80,000 people to Invesco Field in Denver for his speech wrapping up the Democratic National Convention was quickly forgotten when, the next morning, McCain unveiled Sarah Palin as his running mate.

More to the point -- and as Obama's top operatives well know -- large, raucous....

...gatherings can be the soul of illusion in a political campaign. They speak to enthusiasm levels, but not necessarily a candidate's reach.

Still, it's hard not to be impressed with a turnout like the one in St. Louis. As Obama aptly put it as he took the stage, "All I can say is: Wow."

Actually, he had quite a bit more to say. And in North Carolina, McCain had quite a bit to say about the Democrat's fiscal policies, which he unabashedly attacked as a brand of socialism. The Times' Bob Drogin and Mark Z. Barabak have the details here.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

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