Aren’t you only speaking to the people that show up? It seems like the rest of the people in others cities in that state watch it on TV like I do from another state.
First and foremost, it creates a news item. Examples from today in Florida:
Now today they’d have probably got the headlines, anyway, since it’s the day before the election. But it also gives them a blurb on the nightly news, and did last week and the week before.
Secondly, Obama explicity asked a crowd here recently to (paraphrased) “each of you go call five other people.” I’m sure McCain said something similar (and Palin did in New Port Richey and Biden did wherever he was).
They’re also building excitement among the choir and trying to get the last minute fence sitters to go for them.
Apart from generating local news, which shows that Candidate X is really interested in the state, it can also help energise the party’s supporters, who will then go out and increase voter participation among the base.
I went to an Obama rally at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus yesterday, and it was clear to me that a lot of Obama’s speech was directed at his supporters, and urging them to work hard in his campaign for the next two days. It was also clear that a lot of his supporters were energised, both by his presence, and by the crowd of about 80,000 (about 10% of the population of Columbus, though of course many would have come in from surrounding areas).
And it can also help other candidates from the same party to get elected on the presidential candidate’s coat tails.
While I only have anecdotal evidence, I think that seeing a candidate in person can make a big difference in a potential voter’s enthusiasm. Personally, I once saw my senator give a talk at my high school, though this wasn’t in a campaign setting. Before, I vaguely agreed with him based on a few things I had read. After that, I was truly impressed, and would have certainly voted for him if I was old enough.
I’ve heard a lot of similar stories from vocal supporters of Candidate X. They had gone to a rally, and come out an enthusiastic supporter. It seems that individuals make a more personal connection after seeing a candidate at a rally versus just seeing them on TV. Thus, campaigning in person can potentially convince a lot of the undecided voters, and encourage a less enthusiastic supporter to make it to the polls and spread the word.
I wonder if there’s any good hard data on the topic…