Just how many people attended last week’s Republican rally with Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a Smithfield tobacco warehouse?
Several media reports said that 5,000 people were there; many used the same figure when the event was held two years ago with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stumping for then-gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory. (This reporter said hundreds for the more recent rally.)
If the 5,000 number is accurate, the crowd would be able to fill downtown Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium twice. It’s almost impossible to know exactly how many were there because the event wasn’t ticketed.
Jonathan Felts of The Results Company, which helped produce the event, says the final estimate was about 4,500. He said the organizers ordered 3,500 folding chairs and enough barbecue for 5,300 plates – although some folks got second helpings.
A few people were also seen leaving the warehouse with free pork before the speeches began. And while dozens of people were standing in the back, some seats up front remained empty.
The event featured a slew of Republican candidates, including House Speaker Thom Tillis who is running for the U.S. Senate, as well as some who aren’t up for re-election: U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Gov. Pat McCrory. Still, Republicans were quick to compare the turnout to a rally by Sen. Kay Hagan in Charlotte a day later, featuring former first lady and presumed 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Hagan campaign officials said 1,800 came to that event. It was ticketed.
“We drew three times more people in Smithfield then Hagan and the former First Lady could draw in Charlotte,” organizers of the Smithfield event wrote on its Facebook page. “The writing is on the wall.”