Obama to Speak Indoors Because of Weather Threat

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CHARLOTTE , N.C. -- Bedeviled by persistent storms, organizers of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday decided to move President Obama's Thursday night acceptance speech from the outdoor venue of Bank of America Stadium back inside the arena that is hosting the rest of the week's convention events.

The decision was a disappointment for the Obama campaign and meant that that Mr. Obama would not repeat the scale and setting of the 2008 convention speech he gave in a Denver football stadium packed with cheering supporters -- a signature moment for the campaign.

"We have been monitoring weather forecasts closely, and several reports predict thunderstorms in the area, therefore we have decided to move Thursday's proceedings to Time Warner Cable Arena to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and convention guests," said Steve Kerrigan, who is overseeing the convention for the Democrats. "The energy and enthusiasm for our convention in Charlotte has been overwhelming, and we share the disappointment of over 65,000 people who signed up for community credentials to be there with the president in person."

Despite the abrupt shift in plans, Democrats believed they were off to a strong start with their convention, and that the Tuesday night lineup of speakers led by the first lady, Michelle Obama, had roused the audience and television viewers for what promises to be a hard-fought final two months of the campaign between the president and the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.

"This is what this convention is all about," said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, in an appearance on MSNBC. "It gives us an opportunity to really crystallize for the American people this stark contrast. And it's their choice what direction we want to go forward."

"So at the end of the week, I think we will have told a very effective story that should help not just galvanize our base, but galvanize our country," Ms. Jarrett said.

The campaign had hoped to recreate the excitement ofDenver, when an enthusiastic throng embraced the president at the climax of the convention four years ago. That event also drew ridicule from Republicans who derided it as an over-the-top setting with its stage framed by classic columns. Republicans immediately sought to turn this week's change in venue against Democrats.

"The Democrats continue to downgrade convention events due to lack of enthusiasm -- this time they are moving out of Bank of America/Panther stadium," began a statement from the Republican National Committee that was put out within minutes of the announcement. "Problems filling the seats?"

Convention organizers needed to make a decision Wednesday because of the logistics of moving the convention and its large media contingent to the stadium used by the Carolina Panthers.

Both parties have been troubled by bad weather at their respective conventions. Hurricane Isaac forced the cancellation of the first day of the Republican convention last week in Tampa, Fla., and it has rained steadily here in Charlotte, leaving conventiongoers soaked or covered in rain gear and the organizers fretting about the potential for lightning at the outdoor arena in the heart of the city.

The party was reluctant to move the speech since using the stadium allowed them to build a crowd of as many as 65,000 people and distribute thousands of tickets to Obama supporters in a state the Obama campaign would sorely like to win a second time.

Mr. Kerigan said those "community credential holders" would be able to listen to the president on a special conference call Thursday.

"We will work with the campaign to ensure that those unable to attend tomorrow's event will be invited to see the president between now and Election Day."

Campaign officials hoped that a packed stadium rally would answer the lingering concerns that the energy surrounding Mr. Obama's re-election bid is less than for his race four years ago.

A day after Jim Messina, the campaign manager, pledged to go forward with the outdoor speech "rain or shine -- unless there's a safety issue," organizers concluded Wednesday morning that the weather was too unpredictable. The campaign dismissed suggestions that it would have had trouble filling the seats, which were distributed to people who volunteered on the campaign or waited in line for hours to get tickets.

Four years ago, Mr. Obama became the third major presidential candidate to leave the site of his convention to give an acceptance speech at a stadium. Organizers planned that speech after John F. Kennedy's appearance in 1960 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the only other such address to be held in an outdoor stadium in the modern television era.

Here in North Carolina, the outdoor speech was always risky, considering summertime rain and thunderstorms are far more common than in Denver. In 2008, the campaign produced a raft of meteorological data showing it had rained on the date of the speech, Aug. 28, only once in 20 years.

But Mr. Messina and other campaign officials were committed to trying to reprise the stadium rally here. A day before canceling the outdoor speech, he told reporters: "It's going to be a special moment, and we're really excited about it."


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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