By Mara Schiavocampo, Nightly News digital correspondent
For the most part, when we cover political rallies, we focus on what the candidates have to say - as we should. But in the case of Barack Obama's campaign events, the crowds are also becoming a story.
The Senator is attracting tens of thousands of people, something that doesn't normally happen until the general election. In December, 29,000 people showed up to hear him speak at the University of South Carolina with Oprah. That's enough supporters to fill 64 Jumbo Jets. And there's a reason they call it Obama-mania. Barack's supporters are a pretty enthusiastic bunch. This YouTube video shows a number of people fainting while Obama speaks.
We wanted to know what those rallies are really like, not from the outside looking in, but from the inside. Armed with my mini-DV cam, I headed into the crowd in Austin, Texas last night to cover the event in a way we seldom do.
So what was it like? To me, it felt like a sporting event, albeit one where everyone is rooting for the same team. There were the glow sticks, t-shirts, Porta-potties, people carrying styrofoam cups filled with strong-smelling spirits, and even shirtless college kids covered in Obama-inspired body paint. No one started a wave, but surprisingly there was a lot of singing and dancing.
I didn't see any unsportsmanlike conduct. When Obama mentioned John McCain's stance on the Iraq War even the booing was pretty tame. The people that I interviewed talked at length about why they liked the Senator, not why they dislike the other guy.
I ended up with a pretty interesting look at who the Obama campaign is attracting. It will be on the Digital Dispatch soon. Of course it was just one rally in one city. But it still gave me a better idea of who is joining team Obama.