CHARLOTTE, N.C. - President Obama will officially accept the Democratic Party's nomination for a second term Thursday in front of a much smaller crowd after party officials on Wednesday announced that they were canceling plans for him to appear in the massive Bank of America stadium.
Democratic National Committee officials cited the threat of severe weather as the reason for moving the event inside to the Time Warner Cable Arena, although the move immediately prompted claims by the GOP that Obama had failed to attract the kind of crowd that turned out to see him accept the party's nomination for the first time in Denver in 2008.
"The possibility of rain was a great excuse to move the speech because the enthusiasm just isn't there for Obama this time around," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.
But Democrats insisted they were simply playing it safe for attendees.
"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,” convention CEO Steve Kerrigan told reporters Wednesday morning.
The Time Warner Arena seats up to 20,000 people. The Bank of America stadium seats nearly 74,000. The DNC has already handed out thousands of tickets to people who wanted to see Obama speak at the stadium and many of those will now be shut out of the event.
Instead, organizers said Wednesday, Obama will talk to the crowd via conference call.
"And 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," Kerrigan said.
Republicans seized on the news as evidence that enthusiasm for Obama has wanted since 2008, when then-candidate Obama filled Invesco Field – now known as Sports Authority Field – at Mile High Stadium in Denver.
"The Democrats continue to downgrade convention events due to lack of enthusiasm," Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kristen Kukowski told reporters. "This time they are moving out of Bank of America/Panther stadium. Problems filling the seats?"