"The success or failure of a rally is judged by only two criteria," Jon Stewart said on Saturday, opening his much-anticipated “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington. "The intellectual coherence of the content and its correlation to the engagement … I'm just kidding. It's color and size, we all know it's color and size."
It was certainly colorful. And big.
Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s rally drew approximately 215,000 people to the National Mall — or roughly 125,000 more than Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally did at the same spot in August — according to CBS News.
The network commissioned an aerial photo company — AirPhotosLive.com, the same one it used for Beck’s — to get its estimate. The photo company says it has a margin of error of plus or minus 10 percent.
Comedy Central said on its permit application that it was anticipating 60,000 attendees, though the network declined to give an estimate before the rally. (Last week, the Wall Street Journal — displaying some fine sleuthing, estimated the network was expecting about 150,000, based on the number of port-a-potties it ordered.)
The National Park Service, which approved the permit, does not give crowd estimates as a policy, but a park ranger told Brian Stelter that it appeared more than 200,000 people showed up to restore sanity and/or fear. More than 300,000 people had RSVP’d on Facebook for the event.
But I'm guessing there would've been more people in attendance, had Comedy Central not simulcast the event live on television.
In August, Tea Partiers complained that CBS’ estimate for Beck’s rally — about 87,000 — was too low. Organizers of the rally claimed 500,000 people were at the event, though it now appears that number was clearly inflated.
Even on cable, size does matter.