Crowds may have flocked to the National MallÂ to see President Obama make history in 2009, but the team behind the president’sÂ 2013 inauguration bash later this month are bracing themselves for a ton ofÂ empty seats.
The ceremony that Washington will stage in a few weeksÂ won’t be the historic affairÂ it was in 2009, when nearly 2 million peopleÂ flocked to the Capitol o watch Obama take the oath of office.
This time, District of ColumbiaÂ officialsÂ expect between 600,000 and 800,000 people for Obama’s publicÂ swearing-in on theÂ steps of the Capitol on Monday, January 21.
Two weeks before the big day, plenty ofÂ hotel rooms still haven’t been booked. Four years ago, some hotels soldÂ outÂ months in advance.
There will be just two official inaugural balls this year, both at the Washington Convention Center, rather thanÂ 10Â official balls at multiple locations around town.
The pair of celebrations are the lowestÂ number since 1953, according to the New YorkÂ Post.
A political insider told the paper: ‘Some onÂ the presidential inaugural committee are starting to seriouslyÂ worry.’
His inaugural committee has also scaled theÂ celebration back to three days of festivities, instead of four.
Some changes are on account of theÂ slowlyÂ recovering economy and a desire by planners to ease the securityÂ burden on lawÂ enforcement.
But they also reflect a realization that theÂ thrill for Obama’s second inauguration burns a little weaker.
‘There certainly will not be the sort ofÂ exultation you saw four years ago,’ said Mike Cornfield, a George WashingtonÂ University political science professor.
One reason why, Cornfield said, is it simplyÂ lacks the dramatic transfer of power from one president to the next.
‘This is not a change that commands people’sÂ interest automatically,’ Cornfield said. ‘It’s a confirmation ofÂ power.’
Even Obama acknowledges he’s already, shallÂ we say, a little washed-up the second time around.
‘I think that a lot of folks feel that, “Well, he’s now president. He’s a little grayer. He’s a little older. It’s not quite as new as it was,”‘ the president often told supporters while campaigning for re-election.
There will be a parade, but it’s expected toÂ be smaller too; about 130 groups and 15,000 people marched down PennsylvaniaÂ Avenue to the White House in 2009.
Obama will be sworn in first on January 20,Â the date set by the Constitution, but it will be done in private since the dayÂ falls on a Sunday.
His public swearing-in the next day alsoÂ falls on the federal holiday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther KingÂ Jr., branding the occasion with another layer of historical significance,Â especially for African-Americans.
Lessened interest in the second inaugurationÂ of a two-term president such as Obama could be a natural function of America’sÂ political process, said Daniel Klinghard, associate professor of politicalÂ science at the College of the Holy Cross.
‘When it’s your first [inauguration], you’reÂ new and people are only seeing the potential in you,’ Klinghard said. ‘By theÂ time the second one rolls around they’re used to your voice, they’re used to youÂ saying certain kinds of things.’
One group for whom the Obama thrill remainsÂ strong is African-Americans, who overwhelmingly wanted him to have four moreÂ years in the White House.
More than nine in 10 blacks voted to re-electÂ Obama, according to surveys of voters as they left their polling places inÂ November.