One of the first campaign management rules I learned as a young, wannabe political strategist was that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Traditional event management advice is to never hold an event in a venue with a higher capacity than the number of people you think will attend. Otherwise, your event will look poorly attended – even if the turn out was good by your standards.
What if your event reaches max capacity and you have to turn people away? Good. Reporters and guests will walk away thinking your candidate has the momentum, and they’ll tell everyone they know how packed your event was.
Today, Mitt Romney was supposed to speak to the Detroit Economic Club in a hotel room downtown. ABC News reports that the original venue could only hold 700 people, but tickets to the event sold out quickly, so Romney’s campaign moved the event to Ford Field, home stadium of the Detroit Lions, to accommodate more people.
The result was this:
The campaign ordered 1,200 chairs for the event – an attendance level on par with previous, successful Romney events. But in the context of the giant stadium – which can hold up to 70,000 football fans – the 1,200 chairs (which were not all filled) made for a measly attendance.
Many “advance” problems are difficult to avoid – especially in a presidential primary. Candidates are in a different state every week and a different town every day. Sometimes they’re up financially and can afford to hire staff to handle these sorts of logistical problems in advance, and sometimes they can’t.
But coming from the Romney camp, this sort of poor planning is an example of the unacceptable campaign management that has experienced hands wondering if Romney and his team have the ability to be Obama in November – let alone beat Rick Santorum next Tuesday on their home field (pun intended).