August 28, 2009

Bill Clinton is not recession-proof

Tomorrow, after attending Ted Kennedy's funeral, Bill Clinton will travel to Toronto Canada to speak before an audience of up to 25,000 people at the Canadian National Exhibition at BMO Field. Except that the audience isn't going to be 25,000. It's going to be much less. This is not the Bill Clinton you thought you knew and loved or hated. He was supposed to be Mr. Charisma. He was supposed to ooze success, despite never winning the Presidency with over 50% of the popular vote (hey, even George W. Bush managed to do that once, despite the media onslaught). Bill Clinton was supposed to be Mr. I-feel-your-pain. Mr. Empathy. Isn't he still?

The last time Bill Clinton spoke in Toronto it was a sold out engagement, and that was in May of this year (2009). Granted it was a smaller venue and he shared the stage with George W. Bush (unlike the visit tomorrow). Granted the audience was also higher end - the tickets sold for $200 to $2,500. This time advanced sales are at 7,000 and they are estimating final ticket sales to end up at only 10,000 to 12,000. Ironically there's a possibility the stadium will be less than 50% full. It's so disappointing in fact, that the promoters have decided to slash ticket prices from $20-$50 to as low as $5 at the gate.

Of course it doesn't necessarily have to be Bill Clinton's fault. Although the recession is supposed to be over in Canada, it's certainly not boom times. The liberal-leaning city though has always been friendly to Bill Clinton. He was apparently promised a large and receptive audience and the promoters who apparently are paying him an engagement fee of $175,000, are struggling to deliver as promised.

Bill Clinton's cache may be dropping here. Despite the recession, the lowered prices should help. $5 to see a former President should be a no-brainer, especially in a city of basically aligned ideology.

But the laws of supply and demand are real. In a struggling economy, seeing Bill Clinton live isn't the draw it once was. He's clearly not recession proof. The real question is whether the diminished star power will linger after the recession ends. Has Bill Clinton started to become the overweight Elvis of the Democrat party? It remains to be seen. One thing is certain, if this were 2000, a recession would not have mattered to the former President. Now, it appears it's the former President himself that does not matter.

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