Mitt Romney is set to speak before the Detroit Economic Club later this morning to expound upon his recently unveiled tax policy. Befitting the importance his campaign has placed on the event and his self-perceived status as the frontrunner, Romney will address the group at Ford Field, home to the Detroit Lions, a stadium which seats 65,000. The only problem for the Romney campaign is that there isn't a throng of thousands interested in turning out during lunch for a lesson on fiscal policy. As the Detroit Free Press reported, the stage and audience will be situated to make the 1,200 attendees look as if it's as packed as any NFL game:
The Romney campaign and the Economic Club think they've solved the problem. The guests will be seated at one end of the playing surface, roughly between the end zone and the 30-yard line, while Romney will speak from a stage in front of them.
About 100 news media representatives and 50 or so TV cameras will set up behind the guests, so that it will be clear Romney is speaking to a crowd.
Steve Grigorian, chief operating officer for the Economic Club, said the two earlier Ford Field plans were changed because camera angles would have made it appear there was no one in the stadium but Romney.
There's nothing particularly unique about Romney's plan. Campaign advance teams always scout out locations large enough that disgruntled supporters won't be turned away, but small enough that every square inch is filled for the perfect photo-op.
But it's indicative of a wider Republican disengagement in the current primary. Crowds have been relatively sparse for all of the candidates throughout the early voting states. It's inconceivable at this point for Romney, Rick Santorum, or any of the other candidates to draw the crowd of 35,000 that greeted Barack Obama in Philadelphia in April 2008. That general lack of enthusiasm has carried over to the actual voting results where turnout has generally been lower than the 2008 Republican elections; nearly 300,000 Republicans voted in Florida this time around, and fewer than 6,000 took part in Maine's weeklong caucus.
Any malaise among the Republican electorate will likely evaporate this summer, once their nominee is in a head-to-head matchup with their despised Obama. While they will still certainly show up to vote for the Republican candidate, this dissatisfaction could trickle down to the nitty-gritty parts of building a campaign such as fundraising and volunteer staff.