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Tale of Two Rallies: How Trump and Clinton Events Look and Sound

Their candidacies couldn't be more different but there are some similarities between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rallies.
Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)Charlie Neibergall / AP

Their presidential candidacies could hardly be more dissimilar: Hillary Clinton is running on a “love and kindness” platform. Donald Trump is not.

She was the foregone Democratic establishment consensus choice. He was the outsider who was supposed to flame out. The blustering billionaire Republican crafts his message around politically incorrect statements. The former secretary of state’s resume reads like a conventional candidate wish list.

The two front-runners have extremely different policy positions and plans, but their large-scale campaign rallies have more in common than you might expect.

From Secret Service agents and protesters to punctuality problems and the pre-show playlists, there are some similarities at the rallies for both candidates – for instance, they are easily the biggest celebrities on either side of the race and have the most star appeal when it comes to voters. They’ve also both been in the spotlight for decades.

There are also striking differences. Clinton’s rallies tend to be far more serious and somber, with heavy topics like opiate addiction and gun control dominating the conversation. Trump’s events, on the other hand, are more rant than rally but the monster crowds eat it right up, obliging the bombastic candidate’s every request.

For both candidates, every big rally is an event unto itself, and here’s a breakdown of the biggest similarities and differences between the two styles:

At a Donald Trump Rally

Substance: Trump’s speeches tend to be more broad strokes, laden with anger and promises of “so much winning, you’ll be tired of winning.” It’s rare to hear specifics. At a rally Tuesday, when Trump said he was going to change the education system, one man shouted “How?” Trump’s response: “Just you watch.”

Protesters: A long message plays before each rally, instructing the crowd to start chanting “TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP” if someone interrupts him and reminding the audience that this is a “peaceful” event. In short: please do not harm the activists. This stems from prior incidents of supporter-on-protester violence. When it inevitably happens, security removes the protesters as quickly as possible.

Secret Service: The agents are very strict and enforce a campaign rule that keeps reporters in a pen, away from the attendees. Members of the media get an email ahead of the event telling them they are “required to remain in designated media area until the event concludes.” Agents also keep most cameras away from the rope line.

The Crowd: Yuuuge! Folks wait hours to get in and are often turned away due to capacity. Largest crowds have been upwards of 20,000, though Trump often likes to inflate his crowd counts.

The Playlist: A mix of Elton John, Phantom of the Opera and Adele. The candidate has recently been coming out to “Eye of the Tiger.”

Timing: Almost always late, events last about an hour.

Teleprompter: He never uses one and criticizes those who do.

Social media: Trump’s twitter handle is prominently displayed on podiums and media credentials. He even mentions it in his speeches. And, of course, he takes selfies galore.

At a Hillary Clinton Rally

Substance: Her events are very policy-oriented. Almost every speech includes mention of substance abuse and mental health, as well as long riffs on gun control, health care and Wall Street. Clinton largely sticks to her stump, in which a main feature is knocking Republicans, though more time is now dedicated to hitting her chief rival Bernie Sanders.

Protesters: Clinton usually ignores them, unless they get very close to her and then she calls them out, as she did in New Hampshire earlier this month. The other notable interrupters have been protesting on behalf of Black Lives Matter and immigration reform groups. It never gets violent.

Secret Service: Agents let media roam freely throughout the event but get very strict on the rope line. Reporters are often boxed out from getting too close to Clinton but at tiny events in Iowa or New Hampshire, it’s easier to get near enough that you can hear her entire conversation with voters.

The Crowd: Certainly smaller than both Trump and Sanders’ rallies. Her biggest events get up to about 4,000. A typical event is closer to 1,000. People wait outside, rain or shine, for hours to go through stringent security.

The Playlist: Pop stars aplenty including Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson, plus some oldies but goodies (JLo’s “Let’s Get Loud” and Mary J’s “Real Love”).

Timing: Almost always late, events last about an hour on average.

Teleprompter: She occasionally uses them for big speeches and when the campaign is filming an ad.

Social media: Clinton goes old school and asks people to text “join” to a number to sign up for campaign alerts. And like Trump, she also takes lots of selfies, though she’s termed the trend “the tyranny of the selfie.”