You could tell you were at the Hillary Clinton rally by all the big-name local Democratic politicians there, including an old friend, former Rep. John J. LaFalce, whose time in Congress dated back to the Ford administration.
You could tell you were at a Bernie Sanders rally because the Wi-Fi couldn’t handle all the people in the room who were trying to use it.
You could tell you were at the Clinton rally from the protesters outside: some who supported Sanders, others with a Republican message.
You could tell you were at the Sanders rally from the vendors outside selling “Feel the Bern” T-shirts for $20 each. They seemed to have a good night.
And you could tell which Democratic rally you were at by the music playing as each candidate walked onstage.
For Clinton, it was Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.”
For Sanders, it was Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own.”
Granted, the contrasts between Clinton’s Friday afternoon rally at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum and Sanders’ Monday evening event at the University at Buffalo’s Alumni Arena in Amherst were not always that stark.
As when the speakers talked about pay equity.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, one of the politicians speaking at the Clinton rally, rattled off statistics on how women make 80 cents – or less – on the dollar for every $1 that a man earns.
If Clinton is elected president, Poloncarz told the crowd, she’s going to change that.
Fast-forward three days to the Sanders rally.
The Vermont senator was armed with similar statistics but a different closing.
“What women are telling me is they want the whole damn dollar,” Sanders told his crowd.
Candidates and speakers at both rallies – standing at both venues in front of huge American flags – also talked of lowering prescription drug prices, embracing diversity, and beating Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
At times, it even seemed as if the names Clinton and Sanders were interchangeable as they were vying for support in the April 19 New York primary.
But more often than not, it was easy to tell which rally you were at just by glancing at the crowd, or listening to the audience and the speakers – even with your eyes closed.
The Sanders crowd was bigger and younger and louder.
Sanders’ 7 p.m. appearance filled the arena, with an estimated 8,500 people – sitting in the stands or in seats on the arena floor – many of them foot-stomping revelers periodically shouting, “We love you, Bernie” as their candidate spoke.
An additional 3,000 or so, mostly students, who had been standing in line to get inside were turned away because there was no more room in the arena.
Clinton’s 2 p.m. event was smaller, roughly 2,000 people jammed into the largely standing-room car museum building. More than 100 others, some who waited hours in line, were turned away because the room was at capacity.
The crowd was older, but dare say more experienced at this political gamesmanship, and could belt out a hearty “Hillary, Hillary” on demand or spontaneously.
What’s more, while the crowd was largely middle-aged, the Clinton campaign seemed intent on displaying a younger face that also was more politically polished.
A group of young people stood behind the former secretary of state, in perfect position for the television cameras.
The Clinton crowd also seemed more racially diverse, although the Sanders campaign wasn’t about to concede that point.
Speakers at the Sanders event included an African-American woman, a Hispanic man and a white woman representing the labor movement.
Speakers at the Clinton rally were mostly politicians, leaving no question which candidate the local Democratic Party establishment supports.
Clinton also was the candidate who mentioned Buffalo most frequently, often referencing time spent in, and working for, the city while serving for eight years as New York’s junior U.S. senator.
Clinton and Sanders also stood apart on many issues.
Funding higher education?
Sanders wants free tuition for all at public colleges and universities. Clinton wants more of a means test.
Sanders wants an outright ban; Clinton’s position is more nuanced. She wants it limited with stricter regulation but doesn’t want the federal government totally overriding local control.
Health insurance reform?
Sanders wants a single-payer government program; Clinton wants to work on expanding and improving the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
And how did their speeches end?
If we have a large turnout, we can win this, one candidate told the crowd.
We need a big turnout, the other told the audience, to win New York big and propel the campaign into the next round of state primaries.
Who said what? You probably had to be there – with your eyes open, and ears perked up – to know for sure.