Monday, September 22, 2008


The biggest blog story when I woke up this morning, according to Memeorandum, had nothing to do with the financial mess -- the (Drudge-driven) big story was that Sarah Palin had drawn a crowd of 60,000 in The Villages, Florida.

Or, um, maybe not quite 60,000, according to Politico's Jonathan Martin:

Mike Tucker, a local fire marshal, estimated 60,000. But reporters on the ground, including AP's Brendan Farrington and my colleague Ken Vogel, would only say "tens of thousands," suggesting the marshal's estimate was on the high side. The St. Pete Times's Adam Smith had another fire official in the crowd say it was about 25,000.

And it's not exactly a huge surprise that the GOP's new Messiah would draw a crowd in The Villages. Here's a 2007 Miami Herald story:

Retirees' dreamland is Republican bastion

In the sprawling Central Florida retirement mecca called The Villages, Republican voters from the Midwest are as plentiful as golf carts.

...In the Central Florida development that sprawls over three counties and two Zip Codes, Republican voters outnumber Democrats roughly 2-1. Turnout in Sumter County, where the bulk of the community lives, was among the highest in the state in the 2004 presidential election.

"It's safe to say that the road to the White House is through Florida, and the road to Florida is through The Villages," said Richard Cole, president of the largest of the community's four Republican clubs. "We're a substantial political force." ...

It was former Gov. Jeb Bush who put The Villages on the political map. He saw that one of the fastest-growing developments in the nation would be a treasure trove of votes, not to mention campaign cash. Developer Gary Morse was one of the top donors to Bush and his brother's presidential campaign, and he gave $500,000 -- the single largest donation -- to the Republican Party of Florida last year.

...In many ways, The Villages is an oversized, overprogrammed version of South Florida's retirement meccas, where the heavily Democratic populace pines for the days of FDR and Harry Truman....

About 250 miles northwest, The Villages boasts bigger homes and younger residents who worship Ronald Reagan....

The cluster of Republican voters in The Villages is no accident. While South Florida draws liberal-leaning Northeasterners via Interstate 95, The Villages is just a little ways off Interstate 75, which winds through the nation's conservative Midwest...

Even a crowd of 25,000 is pretty big, of course -- as Martin points out, George W. Bush drew 15,000 in 2004. As I keep saying, don't underestimate Palin's enduring appeal, at least to the base.

But "base" is the key word here -- if Palin's going to draw a huge crowd, this is where she's going to draw one.

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