The unexpected turn of events came on the heels of Wednesday afternoon’s announcement that President Barack Obama’s anticipated Thursday night speech has been moved indoors from the cavernous Bank of America Stadium to the considerably smaller Time Warner Cable Arena.
The first two days of the convention had taken place at the arena that houses the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, but Democratic Party officials had hoped to put on a grander show for the convention’s finale that will see Obama formally accept his party’s nod to run for re-election.
The looming threat of inclimate weather precipitated the change, meaning only Democratic Party VIPs and delegates will get to see the president’s prime-time delivery in person.
“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 said.
Officials had already handed out 65,000 tickets for the event at the Bank of America stadium, but Time Warner Cable Arena can only seat up to 21,000 people, well shy of the 80,000 capable of fitting into Bank of America Stadium. As a result, thousands will be turned away.
Party officials tried to put their best face forward on the unexpected setback, but the sense of disappointment among the Obama faithful was palpable.
“We’re disappointed they won’t be able to join us in person,” one organizer told CNN. “But we are encouraging people to organize watch parties at their homes, in their neighborhoods, with their friends.”
Officials added they plan to host a separate event at a later time for those who had credentialed for the stadium. They did not elaborate on when exactly that event would take place, only saying “sometime before Election Day.”
GOP officials wasted little time in going on the attack, saying the move was instead mandated by the Obama campaign’s failure to generate enough interest to fill Bank of America Stadium. Shuffling the event to a smaller, more condensed venue, they argued, would provide for better TV coverage while sparing the president the embarrassment of speaking before rows of empty seats.
Democratic National Committee officials quickly disputed that claim, saying there was a waiting list of 15,000 supporters hoping to attend.
The decision, they insisted, was based on safety rather than partisan politics.
“We were concerned about capacity on the high end for Thursday, not on the low end,” one official told CNN.