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August 23, 2014

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Out in droves: Candidates and styles differ, but supporters’ passion resounds

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Leila Navidi

Alysia Hall of Orlando, Fla., wipes away tears as congressman Dennis Kucinich gives a speech outside of Cashman Centerafter he was shut out of the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday. He sued to participate but eventually lost.

Outside Support

Some of the most interesting sights and sounds of the Democratic presidential debate didn't come from Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or Barack Obama on the inside of the Cashman Center. Instead the trio's supporters, along with a large legion of Dennis Kucinich backers, made their views, votes, and vocals known on the outside.

Outside the Cashman Center before Tuesday night’s presidential debate, candidates’ supporters lined up on Washington Avenue to wage a visibility war for arriving debate guests and journalists in what could be considered a rehearsal for caucus-day planning.

If debate night were caucus day, this is how the three leading campaigns would drum up support:

Well, only one campaign would drum.

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Malcolm McMillan, center, cheers for Sen. Barack Obama.

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Supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton gather before the debate.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s people maybe 100 of them bellowed into bullhorns and banged on plastic buckets.

Among the 50 or so steel workers who turned out for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a few were assigned to hoist 5-foot-tall, three-dimensional red letters spelling out his surname. They were heavy, requiring two people to hold each letter, and the brawn of four to hold the “W.”

And Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s supporters outnumbering Clinton’s by a few relied on no tools, no props, just their voices.

The candidates’ fans started showing up two hours before the debate and were assigned to metal corrals. Staff from each campaign stood on the sidewalk, leading the cheers, while the volunteers leaned over the railings and waved at the passing cars. It could have been a pep rally, what with the bullhorns and balloons, chants and cheers.

And they became competitive. “Yes, we can!” (Obama’s people.) “Who’s house? Our house! What house? White House!” (Clinton’s people.) “John, John Edwards! John, John, John Edwards! (No ambiguity there.)

If they were trained to cheer by their organizers, so too were they instructed to decline media interviews. And good soldiers they were, most of them politely referring interview requests to campaign leaders.

Jon Ralston's analysis

2008 Caucus Coverage

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