By Jonathan Lemire -New York Dail News
Democrats may not be able to fill all 74,000 seats in stadium this time
In 2008, Obama’s speech drew a crowd of 80,000 inDenver; now with party enthusiasm flagging, Democrats worry Obama may have trouble filling 74,000 seats atCharlotteBobcats stadium
Charlotte,N.C.– Barack Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night will be held outdoors unless there is dangerous lightning flashing overhead – and the forecast calls for thunderstorms. For the second time in as many weeks, bad weather could play a role in a political convention.
Last week, the threat of Hurricane Isaac forced Republicans inTampato scuttle a full day of events and now the chance of storms could force Democrats to alter plans – which could yield to chaos inCharlotte.
The first two days of the convention, which kicks off Tuesday, will be held indoors at the Time Warner arena, home of the Charlotte Bobcats.
But the main event, Obama’s acceptance speech, is scheduled for the 74,000-seat Bank of American Stadium. Four years ago, when Obama gave a similar open-air speech at an NFL stadium inDenver, the weather cooperated, creating the powerful image of the candidate speaking to more than 80,000 people.
DNC 2012 will be far cry from enthusiasm of 2008
Democratic officials are hopeful that will be the case again this year.
“The speech at the stadium will go forth rain or shine,” pledged Steve Kerrigan, head of the convention, at a Monday morning press conference.
But less confident officials also noted that hazardous conditions, such as lightning, could force the speech inside the arena. The weather forecast currently calls for a 40% chance of thunderstorms Thursday evening.
If Obama’s speech is moved indoors, there will likely be thousands of disappointed fans, as the Time Warner Arena only holds about 20,000 people – far less than the home of the Carolina Panthers.
The move, however, would eliminate the DNC’s challenge to fill the cavernous football stadium.
Four years ago, the party had no trouble fillingDenver’s Invesco Field. But this year, with enthusiasm surrounding the Obama campaign slightly flagging, there have been concerns that the stadium could be tough to fill.
Democrats currently plan to bus in students and volunteers from all overNorth Carolinato ensure that there are not empty seats during the President’s speech – a visual which Republicans would seize upon.
Democratic officials touted the openness of their convention – a free, outdoor party dubbed “CarolinaFest” was held Monday afternoon – and pledged that it would involve far more average voters than the GOP gala inFlorida.
Charlotte, which boasts a far livelier downtown thanTampa, was picked to host the convention in part due to its new facilities – but mostly because of the role its state plays on the electoral map, Democrats said.
“The President wonNorth Carolinain 2008, the first Democrat to win here in 32 years,” said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. “There is a special affinity between the President andNorth Carolina.”
Obama edged John McCain inNorth Carolinaby less than 1% four years ago and current polls have him slightly trailing Mitt Romney in theTarheelState. Though Obama can reach the 270 electoral votes needed to retain the White House without North Carolina, a win here – or in neighboring Virginia – would likely guarantee victory.
“North Carolinawas tight in 2008. It will be tight this year,” said Foxx. “It will not be an easy state to win, but it is a state that the President absolutely can win.”