CHARLOTTE, NC (WWAY) — President Barack Obama will not talk to a football stadium full of supporters this time around. The Democratic National Convention Committee announced this morning that the president’s acceptance speech scheduled for Thursday night at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium will move indoors because of the threat of severe weather.
“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,” DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan said in a news release.
Convention organizers said last week they had a contingency plan in case weather became an issue, but they would not release the plan until it was needed. That happened today. A White House source told WWAY this morning that he had known of the decision “for a while,” but wasn’t sure when it would be made public.
At a morning press briefing, convention and campaign officials said the decision to move Thursday’s convention programming inside Time Warner Cable Arena means as many as 65,000 people who had gotten community credentials to attend the president’s speech would be shut out. Most of those people are in the Carolinas, including a group that planned to fill several buses to make the trip to Wilmington.
The DNCC said President Obama will address community credential holders in a conference call Thursday. Credential holders will get an e-mail with more information. Convention organizers encouraged people who had planned to attend the speech to take part in watching parties at home.
While Democrats say the decision to move the speech is based purely on weather and safety, critics say it also has to do with whether Mr. Obama can fill the stadium, as he did during his 2008 DNC acceptance speech in Denver.
“Enthusiasm for President Obama is so low that he’s being forced to downgrade his convention events left and right,” RNC spokesman Matt Connelly said in a statement. “First the DNC had to cancel their opening event at Charlotte Motor Speedway due to low enthusiasm. Now President Obama is being forced to move his acceptance speech to a smaller venue just to avoid the embarrassment of speaking to an empty stadium.”
The decision to stay inside also means Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor in North Carolina, will now speak to a likely smaller crowd than expected. Dalton is scheduled to speak to delegates early Thursday evening.