Obama's second inauguration will pale in comparison to first

Workers set up folding chairs in preparation for the US Presidential Inauguration ceremony at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 8, 2013. US President Barack Obama will be ceremonially sworn in for his second term during the public Inauguration event attended by hundreds of thousands of spectators on January 21, 2013.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama has admitted as much himself: The appeal of his presidency has worn off a bit since 2008.

"I know I'm a little grayer now, and it's not as trendy to be an Obama supporter, because it's not as fresh," the president said at a March campaign event. "Those posters are kind of rolled up in some closet somewhere."

This year's presidential inauguration, just like the 2012 election, will be a little less historic and a little less impressive. Smaller crowds are traditionally expected for a president's second inaugural ceremony, but it's unclear exactly how much smaller the crowd will be this year -- some factors like the slow economy could drive interest down even further. On the other hand, the inauguration falls on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, amplifying the significance of the event, as the nation's first African-American president starts his second term. The variables at play have left Washington, D.C. hotels recalibrating their expectations as the event draws near.

"2008, 2009 was very different, I think, for everyone because of the euphoria," said Hans Bruland, vice president and general manager of the Hay-Adams, a luxury hotel that sits across from the White House. "With the election of an incumbent now... it feels like a return to a normal cycle."

At the same time, Bruland said the interest has slowed down enough that "it is a little worrisome."

"Maybe because of the decision to cut back on the [inaugural] balls, there may be not as much interest," he said. "The whole debate with regard to the 'fiscal cliff' may have put off people."

This year's inaugural committee has scheduled just three days of events rather than four, while there are only two official inaugural balls this year, compared with 2009's 10 balls.

Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people are expected to congregate on the National Mall on January 21 to watch the official inaugural ceremony, Washington, D.C. officials say. Those figures are slightly higher than the numbers seen for President George W. Bush's second-term inauguration, when 300,000 to 400,000 crowded onto the Mall, according to the Associated Press. However, it's a far cry from the approximately 1.8 million who watched Mr. Obama take the oath of office for the first time in 2009, setting the record for the biggest event ever in the nation's capital.

"2009 was unprecedented," said Sharon Lockwood, general manager of the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel. "When you have a reelection, you can't imagine it will be quite as frenetic."