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Decision To Move President Obama’s Speech Indoors Could Prove Costly

Think of it as the political equivalent of tossing a wet blanket.

Wednesday’s announcement by the Democratic National Committee that it was moving President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on Thursday evening indoors from the cavernous Bank of America Stadium to the smaller Time Warner Arena didn’t exactly lend much credence to the DNC’s claim that this week’s convention in Charlotte would be “the most open and accessible convention in history.”

Time Warner Arena holds just 21,000 people, far fewer than the 80,000-plus who had hoped to pack Bank of America Stadium on Thursday night.

No problem for the VIPs, delegates and haughty party officials. Thanks, but no thanks to everybody else.

The news undoubtedly came as an unexpected slug in the gut to the many Obama supporters who had dutifully volunteered their time or patiently stood in line for hours, all with the promise of securing a ticket to the stadium and watching the nation’s first black president formally accept his party’s nod for re-election.

Five busloads alone of fervent supporters were slanted to depart the Obama campaign’s Georgia headquarters in Atlanta alone on Thursday.

Not anymore, and I’m not sure why.

I get it when the DNC says that the threat of inclimate weather made the change necessary, but only to a point. According to weather.com, there’s just a 20 percent chance of rain in the Queen City on Thursday, with a stray thunderstorm possible in the evening. Certainly, conventional officials have every right to be worried about storms disrupting the night’s events, but the hasty decision to scale back the convention’s much-anticipated climax could potentially do more harm than good.

I’m guessing there was a small chance of rain four years ago as well when President Obama addressed the more than 84,000 supporters gathered at the outdoor Invesco Field in Denver after outlasting Hillary Clinton for the nomination. But that worked out pretty well. Who can forget the indelible images from that memorable evening?

Unlike his historic march of four year ago, the 2012 Obama campaign has struggled with an “enthusiasm gap” of sorts among its base, particularly among the same young African-American voters who came out in record numbers in 2008 to help propel Obama to the White House.

That enthusiasm has clearly tapered off since he took office, largely the result of the country’s continued economic malaise and the lingering high levels of unemployment that have gripped the African-American community especially hard.

The 2010 mid-term elections saw more than a million fewer African-Americans vote, allowing the Republican Party to gather itself and re-take control of the House of Representatives. The absence of the many young African-Americans who have been hardest hit by the recession was obvious. According to Tuft University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 58 percent of young blacks aged 18-29 voted in the 2008 presidential election, only for that number to dwindle to 28 percent by the 2010 mid-terms.

The Obama team’s idea to re-invigorate the base by rewarding supporters with tickets to Thursday night’s prime-time speech was brilliant, effectively making them more vested in the election’s outcome while almost guaranteeing their active support between now and Nov. 6.

Slamming the door in their faces in Charlotte isn’t helping things.

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