FRANKLIN, TN - The day after Rubio's surprise second place finish in South Carolina, he flew to Franklin, Tennessee (just south of Nashville) for a rally at the Embassy Suites hotel. According to the Rubio campaign, the event was supposed to be held inside in one of the ballrooms, which had a capacity of 1000. When they had over 4,000 RSVPs as of this morning, they decided to move the event outside.
The threat of rain did not dampen the crowd. By 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the event, over 4,000 people had already checked in. The crowd sprawled haphazardly across the giant parking lot, wrapping almost a quarter of the way around the entire building. The stage was flat out not visible from the back rows, but the crowd still stood and cheered every line.
Here's roughly 25% of the crowd, which is all I could get in one shot:
The crowd was warmed up by virtually every middle Tennessee politician of note, almost all of whom have endorsed Rubio. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn emceed the event. Rubio himself was the star of the event, keeping the crowd entertained and engaged throughout.
It's difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison, but the last event I attended here in Middle Tennessee, for Ted Cruz, was definitely smaller, although the energy was roughly the same. Of course, that event was three days before Christmas and was in downtown Nashville instead of in the more conservative suburbs in Williamson County. Additionally, people are without question more plugged in now than they were then.
All that having been said, Rubio clearly has caught on to some momentum in the South, and he could well surprise here when Super Tuesday rolls around in one week.