Updated at 8 a.m. on October 28.
Away from his Daily Show desk, Jon Stewart is leaving all the political and metaphysical analysis of Saturday’s “Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear” to others.
In a spontaneous sidewalk interview in Washington Wednesday night, Stewart didn’t even have a ballpark estimate of how many would turn out on the National Mall for the widely hyped event.“Oh, God. No one knows,” Stewart said. “We don’t have an infrastructure to measure that sort of thing.”
Stewart spoke to National Journal shortly after interviewing President Obama who appeared on his show last night. But Stewart – wearing a weathered Mets hat, untucked green T-shirt, and khakis, with a satchel over his shoulder spilling newspapers – said the rally would not veer toward the overtly political. But instead will try to stay true to the idea of striking a blow, if a satirical one, for moderation.
Stewart, walking with a companion through the Penn Quarter neighborhood, stopped for one photograph with fans before hustling off.
Obama used his time on the show the defend his legislative record while acknowledging there was still more to be done.
"My expectation and hope is that if you look at the track record that we've accomplished in very difficult circumstances over the last 18 months, we have done an awful lot that we talked about during the campaign, and we're going to do more in the years to come," he said.
On the verge of midterm elections in which Democrats' prospects could hinge on whether they can turn out young voters, the Daily Show demographic, the president was not shy about his true intentions on the show: “Can I just make a plug just to vote?’’ he asked as the show neared the end. “Go out there and vote November 2. A lot of you have early voting in your states; make sure you make use of it.’’
The Rally to Restore Sanity has generated more than 200,000 Facebook RSVPs, but that is an unreliable predictor of attendance, since the science of social networking organizing is still very new. “I don’t know,” Stewart said. “I guess we’ll see what happens.” Chris Wayne, a former Clinton White House staffer helping to organize the event, said last week the permit space allows for between 150,000 and 200,000 people, but laughed off such turnout as unlikely.
Stewart and fellow Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report, are headlining the rallies as parody follow-ups to Glenn Beck’s "Restoring Honor" rally on the Mall in August. Some Democrats are hoping the two shows’ youth-oriented audience will drive up turnout in the final 72 hours before Tuesday’s midterms. Republicans, in turn, are hoping the event will prove a progressive distraction.
"We'll have some surprises," Stewart said Wednesday in response to a question about guest appearances. "We're going to have some fun."