Posted on | October 5, 2012 | 22 Comments
Mitt Romney speaks Thursday at campaign rally in Fisherville, Virginia
(Associated Press photo by Charles Dharapak, via Ken Gardner.)
Last night’s rally in Fisherville, Virginia, was so crowded, I couldn’t even get inside with media credentials, and really was lucky to get there at all. When I turned off the ramp from I-81 onto I-64, I was confronted by an absolutely gridlocked traffic jam, backed up all the way to Exit 91, more than four miles away. There was a similar backup toward Charlottesville to the east of the exit, as well as on both of the state highways leading to the event site.
It took nearly an hour to get from I-81 to Exit 91 and, seeing the long line of cars headed up the mile-long road to the venue, I decided to park at the McDonald’s right next to the exit and walk the rest of the way. It was past 7 p.m. at that point, and I could hear the music playing in the distance — good news, as it meant that country music star Trace Adkins was still onstage and they hadn’t started the speaking program yet. As I headed down the road to the venue, I found myself walking alongside some others who had parked their cars on the other side of the expressway.
Nearing the rally, we encountered a crowd of thousands — yes, thousands — standing on a hillside across from the open-air arena, where a speaker for the National Rifle Association was talking about Second Amendment rights. I went up to the gate entrance and the cops said no admission, not even to the press, citing orders from the fire marshal. Another reporter was there, likewise shut out, and said he was waiting on someone with the campaign staff whom he’d contacted to try to get in, but he wasn’t hopeful.
Well, this was the story, you see.
The speeches of the candidates are just speeches — anybody could find the videos and transcripts online later — whereas this massive crowd was something you really had to see to believe, and something that the national press was unlikely to report.
While we were standing beside the entrance, a group of young men in white military uniforms arrived and got the same “no admission” response from the cops.
“Not even for VMI cadets?” they asked, but the head cop replied, “Don’t even try to pull that with me.” He had his orders from the fire marshal, and there were Republicans with VIP tickets who, arriving late, were similarly locked out.
So I asked one of the cops about the arena capacity, and he said officially it seats 5,000, but I could see there were easily another thousand people standing, inside the security perimeter, but outside the seating area. A Secret Service agent said she’d been told the campaign had issued 10,000 tickets online. Walking back out to the road, where the crowd was standing on the hillside, I estimated at least another 2,000, and the cars were still lined up bumper to bumper coming in.
And these people were totally fired-up. The Shenandoah Valley is the absolute bedrock of Republican strength in Virginia. A statewide GOP candidate has to get maximum turnout in the Valley (and in the Southside, below Richmond toward the North Carolina border) in order to offset Democrat votes in Richmond and the close-in D.C. suburbs. So the big turnout in Fisherville (in the heart of the Valley, near Harrisonburg and Staunton) was a very encouraging sign for the Romney campaign. Here is a clip of Ryan’s speech:
Afterwards the rally, I walked back up to McDonald’s where I found myself bumping into all kinds of people I knew, or who knew of me, including a couple of AOSHQ Morons™, blogger Justin Higgins and also Danielle Saul, whose mother Ginny Saul I’d met at Right Online 2011 in Minneapolis, where I introduced both of them to Andrew Breitbart.
In August, you may remember, Danielle was part of a team who infiltrated an Occupy DC meeting and got video of a labor activist espousing Marxism. Now, she’s working in Virginia as youth coordinator for George Allen’s Senate campaign. This explanation is necessary in order to pre-emptively refute any accusation that I just randomly pose for pictures with buxom young females.
Nothing random about it. Our rowdy commenters are hereby forewarned against making any unseemly remarks about Danielle — brandishing the ban-hammer — because (a) she’s a sweet Christian kid, and (b) I’m friends with her Mom and Dad.
The rally ended with a fireworks finale at exactly 8:18 p.m. (I noted the time) and the dining room of the McDonald’s closed at 11 p.m., which meant I had less than three hours to file my column for The American Spectator:
Randy Goettge left Leesburg about 3:30 p.m. Thursday and the normal drive time should have gotten him to the Romney-Ryan “Victory Rally” here by the announced start time of 6 p.m. Unfortunately for Goettge, about 10,000 other Virginians had similar plans, producing what was surely the biggest traffic jam in the history of Augusta County. Traffic was backed up for miles in every direction — all the way from the Highway 285 exit to Interstate 81 four miles west — and by the time Goettge found a place to park and walk the final mile to the Augusta Expo Center, it was 7:30 p.m. and the gates were already closed.
Goettge was by no means alone. Thousands more late-arriving supporters — some of whom had driven from as far away as Richmond and the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. — stood on a hillside across from the outdoor arena where a fired-up sign-waving crowd was packed to fire-code capacity. However, the sound system was powerful enough to be heard at a quarter-mile distance and the giant TV screen was visible from the hillside, providing Goettge and the overflow crowd with an excellent view of the proceedings.
The massive turnout was proof that Mitt Romney’s stunning victory in Wednesday’s debate struck a spark of excitement, reviving a campaign that had sustained a month-long battering of negative media coverage. “The crowd was feeding off the energy from last night,” said Amy Whitaker, who drove from Amherst County to attend the rally. “A lot of us didn’t get to sleep until 2 in the morning, we were so hyped up.… We were just surprised [Romney] did so well, and how bad Obama did.” . . .
Please read the whole thing. This morning I’m going to another Romney event in Abingdon, down near the Tennessee border.
Some advice: If you’re planning to attend a Romney-Ryan event now — when the campaign is glowing white-hot — please plan to arrive early. The “doors open” time is usually two hours ahead of the scheduled start time and, as at the Fisherville rally, traffic may significantly delay your arrival.