Sen. Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Ann WarrenFormer Biden economic adviser: 'I really like a lot of' Warren's tax proposals Poll: Trump trails top 2020 Democrats in Michigan Monmouth acknowledges poll showing Biden losing support was 'outlier' MORE is making waves with the big crowds that she’s attracting to campaign events across the country.
The Massachusetts Democrat drew 15,000 people to a presidential campaign event in Seattle on Aug. 25, and 12,000 to an event at Macalester College in St. Paul — her first campaign event in the state — on Aug. 19.
The crowds have drawn attention to her campaign from Democrats and other members of the media who see it as a sign she might be gaining momentum in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
A former aide to President Obama, who also drew big crowds during his campaign for the White House, marveled at the size of Warren’s crowds at this stage of the race.
“What Warren is doing this early on is pretty unprecedented,” the aide said, adding that Obama’s events didn’t attract thousands of people until well into the primary cycle.
“If we would have attracted crowd sizes that large early on, Hillary would have run for the hills,” the aide said, referring to Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: Support rises for 2020 Democrats favoring 'Medicare for All' Overlooked Nevada seeks to pack a bigger punch in 2020 race Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election MORE , who Obama beat out in the 2008 primary.
Polls don’t show Warren running away with the nomination contest.
Nationally, she trailed frontrunner Joe Biden Joe BidenFormer Biden economic adviser: 'I really like a lot of' Warren's tax proposals Poll: Trump trails top 2020 Democrats in Michigan Monmouth acknowledges poll showing Biden losing support was 'outlier' MORE by double-digits in two national polls released on Wednesday. She also trailed Sen. Bernie Sanders Bernie SandersFormer Biden economic adviser: 'I really like a lot of' Warren's tax proposals Poll: Trump trails top 2020 Democrats in Michigan Monmouth acknowledges poll showing Biden losing support was 'outlier' MORE (I-Vt.) in the two surveys.
But the big crowds could be a sign that Warren is building toward something.
“It shows growing enthusiasm, people want to see and hear her,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale. “Crowd size in August isn't going to decide the race, but it certainly helps.”
Warren isn’t the only candidate who can draw a crowd.
Sanders drew huge audiences in 2016, and the trend has continued in this cycle.
In March, Sanders aides say they drew 16,000 supporters to a rally in San Francisco, the Vermont senator’s biggest crowd so far.
They also drew 15,124 people to a rally in Los Angeles that same month. Rallies in New York and Chicago also in March drew more than 13,000 and 12,000 respectively, the Sanders campaign said.
“There is an incredible level of enthusiasm for Sen. Sanders in states all across the country,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders's campaign manager, said in an email to The Hill. “It is telling that not only does Sen. Sanders attract energetic crowds but that these events are filled with people who are deeply engaged in the political process and the future of our country, often for the first time.”
Democrats historically have warmed to the candidate who can attract the crowds.
Obama in 2008 and Bill Clinton William (Bill) Jefferson ClintonVideo from camera outside Epstein jail cell unusable: report New data challenges Trump's economic narrative The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers MORE in 1992 are two examples of Democratic candidates whose crowds foreshadowed victories.
Strategists say drawing a crowd is also important in the Trump era given the president’s obsession with the subject.
On Tuesday, Trump belittled Warren’s crowds, saying his were “far bigger” and complaining that they “get no coverage at all.”
Biden has been the steady leader in the Democratic race, but he doesn’t appear to be drawing big crowds.
At an event in Keene, N.H., over the weekend, Biden addressed a crowd of approximately 300 people. The former vice president’s largest crowd to date was his May kick-off event in Philadelphia, which drew an estimated 6,000 supporters.
“His ground game doesn’t seem to be as good,” said another former Obama aide, who remains undecided in the Democratic primary. “Could he pull off 15,000 people in Washington State organically? It doesn’t seem that way.”
Drawing a big crowd in Iowa might be more important than drawing a big crowd in Seattle.
And none of the big three candidates appear to be pulling particularly large crowds in any of the early-voting states.
Warren’s largest crowd in an early state, for example, was approximately 1,100 earlier this month in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Several weeks ago, she also spoke to a crowd of approximately 925 in Aiken, South Carolina and 700 in Franconia, New Hampshire.
“At this point, I'd look closer at whether these campaigns can pull 500 people in Oscaloosa, Iowa — population 11,000 — than 16,000 people in San Francisco, population 850,000,” the second former Obama aide said.
Doug Landry, who served as trip director to Tim Kaine Timothy (Tim) Michael KaineA lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair Warren's pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback Almost three-quarters say minimum age to buy tobacco should be 21: Gallup MORE as part of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, noted that crowd size “doesn’t always translate to support at the ballot box.”
When he served as an advance staffer on Clinton’s presidential campaigns, Landry said, “we had to work a lot harder to convince people to actually make the effort to come out to see her.
Since Clinton had already been a public figure on the national stage, “voters felt like they already knew her.”
He said that could be a problem for Biden.
“When you're in the news for a quarter century, it's hard to get people to come out to ‘learn about this new candidate’ — and I think that's the same dynamic at work for Joe Biden's solid but not huge crowds since he's been in public life for even longer,” Landry said.
Lynda Tran, a Democratic strategist who served as the national press secretary for Organizing for America, cautioned that campaigns design different types of events to suit particular needs.
“So size is definitely not everything when it comes to measuring success,” Tran said.
But, she added, “from an organizers perspective, you always hope for a great turnout.”
“…The optics of a capacity or over-capacity crowd make fantastic headlines that boost voter and donor interest, shore up staff and volunteer morale, and feed into an overall narrative about campaign momentum,” she said.