There are three metrics that are almost entirely irrelevant when it comes to predicting the outcomes of elections:
1) Yard signs.
2) Online polls.
3) Rally crowd sizes.
At no time has this been more obvious than during Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. Time after time, we've witnessed photos of Bernie rallies across the country featuring tens of thousands of activated supporters (and at least one friendly bird). And every time, the massive crowd sizes portend doom for Hillary Clinton in the next primary or caucus, only to fizzle on election day.
Meanwhile, you might've heard about an upcoming pro-Bernie march in New York City on April 16, three days before the big New York primary. The march is predicted to include 27,000 (give or take) Bernie supporters marching from Foley Square to Union Square. If the numbers bear out, it'll be another colossal display of support for Bernie's campaign, even as his delegate window gradually closes.
But does size really matter?
Frankly, on the upside, it's an event worthy of praise, knowing how, in the age of social media, it's not easy getting people to unplug and to venture, you know, outside. It's also, on the downside, a well-illustrated example of why Bernie has fallen short in some of the most crucial primaries.
Instead of holding an old-school protest-style march, Bernie supporters might see better results in New York by, instead, channeling all of those 27,000 people into a serious get-out-the-vote (GOTV) and registration effort.
Protest marches seem quaint today. At least, on the left, marches, rallies and protests feature very little message cohesion and even less translation into political action. The left's inability to correlate on-the-street protests with actual political change was perfectly illustrated during the precursor to Bernie's revolution: Occupy Wall Street. Without re-litigating the myriad reasons why OWS failed (no central leadership or set of demands, etc), let's just put it this way: how many Tea Party members of Congress exist today, and how many OWS members of Congress exist today?
The problem, then, is this: the 27,000 number will dwindle significantly if the march is re-sculpted into a GOTV campaign. Why? Because everyone loves a rock concert, but no one loves doing hard work. And a GOTV or registration blitz is hard work.
This rock concert dynamic also explains the disconnect between the rally crowd sizes and pro-Bernie turnout not being what the candidate had hoped for. Again, it's fun to see a concert and to cheer for your guy. It's not nearly as fun to wander door-to-door, potentially facing down angry Hillary supporters in their homes, while working on GOTV.
Eight years ago, when Barack Obama spoke at Invesco Field at the Democratic National Convention, his campaign collected the cell numbers of all 75,000 attendees for the sole purpose of text alerts and phone-banking, with the goal of organizing an Herculean GOTV effort for the November election. It's unclear whether Bernie is taking advantage of his rallies by turning attendees into votes, or if it's all merely about numbers somehow fallaciously correlating to electoral support.
From the outside, it looks like it's the latter. And it could be why Bernie's momentum hasn't quite translated into a better delegate count.