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Does Crowd Size Matter? McCain Hopes Not


From CBS News' John Bentley:

(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) – Playing up his ties to the area as a senator from the neighboring state of Arizona, John McCain pitched himself to New Mexico voters as the candidate that best understands their issues.

"I'm a fellow westerner, I understand these issues, I understand land and water and Native American issues and border issues and I understand the challenges that a great, great western states face with our growth and our needs and our challenges," McCain said. "Sen. Obama has never been south of our border, you know that? And he doesn't know these issues. I know them, I know what the southwest is, I know the strength and the culture of our Hispanic culture and the strength of our great states."

The problem for the McCain campaign is that less than 1,000 people heard him make this argument at his rally here, compared with the 40,000 that are expected to greet Barack Obama when he arrives in town this evening.

Crowd size doesn't determine the outcome of presidential races, of course. John Kerry had huge crowds in 2004, and George McGovern famously outdrew Richard Nixon in the 1972 race, only to go on to win a single state in the election.

The McCain camp has also tried to turn Obama's crowd sizes against him, calling him the "world's biggest celebrity." McCain mocked the huge numbers Obama drew in Europe at the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota. "Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent," McCain said in August. "I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day."

But Obama's solid lead in the polls here seem to reinforce what the crowd sizes indicate – that Obama has the edge in this state that went for Bush four years ago, no matter who their next door neighbor is.