POLITICS

Obama backers lament being kept out of DNC speech

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Photo - Women from D.C. hold up a sign asking for tickets to hear Obama speak in the Time Warner Cable Arena (Brian Hughes/Examiner)
Women from D.C. hold up a sign asking for tickets to hear Obama speak in the Time Warner Cable Arena (Brian Hughes/Examiner)
Politics,Brian Hughes,Campaign 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- They came to the Tar Heel State expecting to enjoy a thrilling oration. Instead, the thousands of people turned away from President Obama's acceptance speech Thursday after it was moved indoors dealt with exasperation, disappointment and outright rage as the show went on without them.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the Democratic National Convention in downtown Charlotte on Thursday hoping to snag one of the few remaining passes to the convention's main event, President Obama's acceptance speech. Some just gave up. Most walked away empty-handed.

"This sucks," Adria Owens, a federal government worker from Alexandria, said as conventiongoers snapped pictures around her. "I thought I was going to see the president, but now I'm stuck our here begging. It wasn't how I imagined it -- that's for sure."

Obama planned to speak at Bank of America Stadium, an outdoor arena that can seat almost 75,000, and convention organizers had given away thousands of tickets to people who were not otherwise going to attend the convention.

But amid forecasts of heavy rain, organizers announced Wednesday that they were moving Obama's speech indoors at the nearby Time Warner Cable Arena, which holds just 20,000 people.

Thousands of would-be spectators - including some who booked flights months in advance, took time off of work or carpooled to North Carolina just to see his speech -- were out of luck.

Instead, those people got to hear a conference call from the president thanking them for coming.

"We can't let a little thunder and lightning get us down," Obama said. "We're going to have to roll with it. All I can tell you is I appreciate how much you've done. The problem was a safety issue."

The Obama campaign insisted it couldn't risk putting thousands of volunteers and supporters at risk, but Republicans quickly claimed Democrats couldn't fill the stadium seats and canceled the event to conceal the drop in enthusiasm for the president.

Though it rained in spurts Thursday afternoon, the sky was clear above Obama supporters waiting outside the convention hall, hoping event organizers would relent and let them in. They didn't.

"It's not even raining," Juliet Cannon, of Oklahoma City, Okla., said with a sigh. "There's nothing we can do about it. This is my first convention. I hope it won't be my last."

The Obama campaign had banked that the visual splendor of an outdoor event was worth the risk of alienating supporters if the event had to be moved inside. But Thursday they were scrambling to appease disgruntled party activists.

"Let's just go home," said one elderly man wearing an Obama 2012 T-shirt. "This just isn't worth it. What a joke."

But some defied the odds and still found their way into the arena.

A trio of women from the D.C. area appealed to a higher power, holding up a makeshift sign that read, "God answers prayers. Can you? Need 3 tickets."

"It's the power of prayer. I knew it would work," Lisa Ambers, of Waldorf, said after scoring three tickets. "Now we've got to run and get dressed!"

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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