HOUSTON -- The days leading up to "The Response," Texas Gov. Rick Perry's prayer rally at Reliant Stadium, had looked a little grim for the governor and the event's organizers. Only about 7,000 people had confirmed that they would attend a venue that seats 71,500, and the controversial roster of sponsors -- including the American Family Association, which is labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- drew as much attention as the event's stated purpose of praying and fasting for the nation's improvement.
At least from the standpoint of attendance, though, things didn't turn out so bad. The consensus estimate put the crowd at around 30,000 people, and it was a diverse group of many backgrounds and ethnicities. So were the speakers. And while a number of them have a history of making extreme and ugly pronouncements, the general tenor of the event did not reflect that. (Which is not to say that people won't find cause for offense.) It was as much a Christian rock festival as anything else.
The bottom line: Perry came exactly as advertised. His overt religiosity is unlikely to hurt him -- indeed, could help him -- in the Republican primary. He'll present a vivid contrast to the current frontrunner, Mitt Romney. But beyond that, it's anyone's guess. I thought the day's shrewdest political insight came from Dr. Richard Land, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a sixth-generation Texan, who I bumped into in the hallway after Perry spoke. "If he runs, he'll be a strong candidate," Land told me. "He's a charismatic figure. I think about him on stage with the other candidates and he'll stand out. He's not a wallflower. But the most interesting question for me is whether the country is ready for somebody who looks and sounds like George W. Bush on steroids."
6. During 08, in Portland Oregon, Obama drew 70,000 to a venue
that holds far less. People were on the water, on the bridges, everywhere. So by their own estimate there were 41,500 empty seats, at a free event. Far more that half empty. That piece, it is some kind of spinning spin being spun.
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