Attendance likely to drop by a million for second Obama inauguration

District of Columbia officials estimate that between 600,000 and 800,000 people will attend Obama's second swearing-in Monday.
Jan 15, 2013


Marvin Lyman figured it would be a breeze to fill two charter buses to go from Missouri to Washington for President Barack Obama's inauguration, just as it was four years ago when Lyman's phone rang off the hook with people eager to make the trip.

But as December turned to January, the Kansas City restaurateur weighed canceling the trip as he struggled to find enough passengers to fill one 45-seat bus.

"Right now it looks like a group right at 18, so we're coming," said Lyman, co-owner of Papa Lew's soul food restaurant. "In 2009, we had 106 people, we had two 55-passenger buses. It's definitely not like the first time."

When Obama takes the oath of office outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 21 and looks onto the National Mall, he will see a different landscape than he did in 2009.

Then, an estimated 1.8 million people poured onto the Mall to witness the first African-American president sworn into office. Now, District of Columbia officials estimate that between 600,000 and 800,000 people will attend Obama's second swearing-in, a steep decline from 2009 but an above-average audience for a second-term inauguration. George W. Bush's second inauguration attracted between 300,000 and 400,000 people. Bill Clinton's likely drew around 450,000.

The expected drop in attendance isn't a sign for a lack of enthusiasm for Obama's re-election, according to Lyman and others. With the historic novelty of the first inaugural gone, coupled with today's challenging economy, polarized political climate, minimum stay requirements imposed by some Washington-area hotels, and images of people shivering in the bone-chilling cold during the 2009 swearing-in still fresh in the minds of many, more people are choosing to stay home and watch the event on television, they say.

"People are very excited about Obama being re-elected, but not excited about going to D.C. and enduring the cold like the last time," Lyman said. "Some of it could be financial. Some people overspent over the holidays and I know some people's job status changed in the last four years."

David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said this year's inaugural seems to lack the buzz and sense of anticipation that Obama's first one had.

"It's subdued in the sense that January 2009 was a very historical occasion," Goldfield said. "Obama's campaign generated a considerable amount of hope and prospect. ... But a lot of programs Obama touted in 2008 didn't receive a lot of discussion in Congress -- immigration reform, the environment. Also, there is this dreadful deadlock in Congress that has turned some people off."

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he's noticed a lower wattage toward the inauguration from his constituents and his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

In the weeks leading to the 2009 inaugural, Cleaver's office was flooded with more than 5,000 requests for tickets. This year he said he's only received 1,700 inquiries.

The lower demand is just the nature of second-term inaugurals, according to Cleaver.

"Having been the first African-American mayor of Kansas City, I can tell you the second time around isn't as exciting as the first. People have already been a part of history," he said. "My first inauguration was one of the biggest in Kansas City. The second time, you could have had it in my garage."

Delores Reid-Smith, a member of the Charlotte chapter of the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee who is organizing a bus trip from North Carolina to Washington, summed up the projected attendance drop more succinctly: Obama "isn't a newbie anymore."

Even the president acknowledged that the thrill might be gone for some of his supporters. After national voter turnout surged to 62.3 percent in 2008, it fell to 57.5 percent in November, the lowest figure since 2000, when 54.2 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

"So, I'm a little grayer now. It's not as trendy to be involved in the Obama campaign as it was back then," Obama said at a Chicago fundraiser last March. "Some of you have rolled up those 'Hope' posters and they're in the closet somewhere."

Andrea Young, a school speech pathologist from Norcross, Ga., said nothing could have stopped her from attending Obama's 2009 inaugural. She made the journey on a bus initially chartered by South Carolina Republicans.

This year, she tried to organize a bus trip to Washington through her Spartanburg, S.C., church, but that fell through. Now she's considering driving with friends or traveling by bus with another church group.

"I'm excited, but I have obstacles in front of me," Young said. "I thought it would be a slam-dunk organizing a bus trip, but people are lacking finances."

Neither finances nor the Atlantic Ocean is stopping Verna Brandford from attending Obama's second swearing-in. The London resident was there in 2009 and booked her flight to attend this year's ceremony moments after the American television networks called Ohio for Obama on election night.

"To have witnessed such a historical moment clearly cannot be repeated," Brandford said in an email interview. "However, this time is an even more momentous occasion for me as your president as a man of color did not only attain the unattainable once in 2008 but did it a second time in 2012. What are the chances of that happening in one's lifetime?"


By William Douglas - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

(c)2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at

Distributed by MCT Information Services



Folks, as long as the "have nots" outnumber the "haves", the WH will belong to the Dems. That is a sorry fact. The head Malato hands out the working class's money like tic tac's at a speed dating get together. Now he wants to raise the debt ceiling? Believe me folks, he won't stop until he has the hammer and sickle flying over the WH. With the backing of the great George Soros, he will be coming after the guns as well. There is already treaties with other countries on the table that he can simply sign that puts legislation in place to go after the guns here in our country. This can be done without Congess even getting involved or the Amereican people even knowing what has happened. Make no mistake people .... not only is this guy after your money .. he wants your way of life!


^Warped......Nothing more true could be said in your first statement and entire post. The TAKERS are winning. This has nothing more to do than votes being won by government handouts.

Im proud to love capitalism and to be a hard worker and strived for a better life. I couldn't imagine settling for government handouts and living off of my neighbors hard work. The drive in this nation is lost. Takers are winning, VERY SAD


Anyone can -iss, moan, and complain. Do I see any ideas here on what to do to fix things? Nope. Also, I get sick and tired of people saying Obama supporters are lazy, on Welfare, unemployed, and overall, on the take. I don't know anyone like that. I also have worked my whole life. Face it, Romney LOST, and if his son is telling the truth......he never wanted to be President! The would explain a lot.


@ 44846GWP aka Zippy:

So other than borrow, tax, print and spend what's Mr. Obama's solution to "fix things"?

"We're still in a fragile recovery," - Ben Bernanke, Jan. 14, 2013

Gentleman's bet: $20 trillion Fed deficit by 2016.

BTW: Mrs. Kerry didn't want to have to live in the WH - a step down.


Race played a factor again, and you can't deny that. Obama got 93% of AA votes. 73% of Hispanic and 71% of Asian. He again won the younger generation votes because lets face it, most young kids do not pay attention, they are to busy on twitter and facebook and have ZERO clue about policies....etc. Lets hope they can find a job.


It's too bad Herman Cain, Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice didn't become the Republican Presidential candidate. Race wouldn't have been the issue in the 2012 election, stupidity would have.

Tired Of Governmental Corruption's picture
Tired Of Govern...

Barry is the poorest excuse for a president we've ever had. He's done nothing but take away more from the people. Muslim dictator

Brock Lee



Think maybe that people are staying away so as to stay out of the lines of fire?


Yeah. Some here admitted non- veteran status. You enjoy what others paid for. Some know about welfare, i.e. airport, paid migrant labour that started after WW2 & is still present. Whoops...probably get deleted again because of facts. Sadly most "Americans" hate the truth & imo. are weak.


Sen. Barack Hussein Obama, Mar. 16, 2006:

"Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally.

Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."


Watch near the beginning of the movie, "Too Big to Fail," where it's mentioned that the Russians and the Chinese were discussing dumping their U.S. Treasury holdings and sinking the U.S. economy.

Pres. Eisenhower threatened the Brits with dumping the Sterling during the Suez Crisis.

If war between the U.S. and China ever becomes a reality, they will not need to fire a shot. They can merely threaten to destroy the U.S. financially.

History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes.