The Washington Post

Stormy forecast drives Obama speech indoors

No matter what President Obama says Thursday night when he accepts his party’s nomination, there will be no Greek columns — and no balloon drop.

With forecasters expecting severe thunderstorms to roll through Charlotte on Thursday night, convention officials scrapped plans to have Obama speak from outdoors at the 73,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, opting instead to keep delegates at the indoor Time Warner Cable Arena, with room for about 15,000.

Ahead of the speech, campaign aides remained tight-lipped about the specifics of Obama’s speech, but senior Democrats urged him to keep focused on the economy, the chief concern among voters.

“He doesn’t have to give a State of the Union, but he has to connect with some emotional clarity to let people know where we’re going in this economy,” said John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and is now chair and counselor of the Center for American Progress, a think tank closely associated with the Obama administration.

Obama has been criticized, at times, for being overly cool in settings that call for more emotion. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first White House chief of staff, warned that this speech — Obama’s second accepting his party’s nomination for president – must be “a visionary piece with big goals set out for the country.”

“It’s got to be somewhat of the road map we will take, but not the 10-point plan,” Emanuel said at a breakfast meeting hosted by The Washington Post and Bloomberg News. “That’s not what it’s going to be; it shouldn’t be that. And I think it would be a mistake if it was that.”

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the threat of thunderstorms Thursday night might have forced organizers to quickly evacuate the stadium, home to the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers.

Republicans insisted that the change of venue was driven less by weather concerns than worries that Obama would be unable to fill the stadium. But Psaki and other Democrats retorted that 65,000 people had tickets to attend, in addition to about 6,000 official delegates, thousands of reporters and 19,000 people on a waiting list – more than enough to top the stadium’s seating capacity.

In addition to giving up the dramatic outdoor venue, the convention will end without the traditional balloon drop, because organizers said they had not made plans to fill the indoor arena with balloons.

Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Democratic Party, told The Post that by abandoning the stadium the campaign will also miss the chance to mine the larger crowd for new voters and campaign volunteers.

Many supporters didn’t learn the news until told by reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Everlene Baker came with friends from Palm Beach County, Fla., and had tickets only for the Thursday night speech. Now, she said, “I can watch it on TV in the hotel room.”

Matt Paine and his wife, Delia, came from Bend, Ore., to sell homemade campaign buttons. They hoped another football stadium speech would reenergize Obama’s supporters the way his 2008 address in Denver had.

“There’s no question that the enthusiasm is down from 2008,” Paine said, noting that he has sold fewer buttons this year than he did four years ago. “I think anyone will tell you that 2012 is not 2008 and nothing will be 2008 again. That just doesn’t happen like more than once a century.”

Diviniah Payne-Shantefiere, 58, a delegate slated to attend Obama’s speech, said: “He should go to the various venues and make the rounds. He has to make a physical appearance. People came a long way and went through a lot of stuff to get here for him.”

Scott Wilson, Kevin Merida and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
New Hampshire has voted. The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The big questions after New Hampshire, from The Post's Dan Balz
Can Bernie Sanders cut into Hillary Clinton's strength in the minority community and turn his challenge into a genuine threat? And can any of the Republicans consolidate anti-Trump sentiment in the party in time to stop the billionaire developer and reality-TV star, whose unorthodox, nationalistic campaign has shaken the foundations of American politics?
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
What happened in New Hampshire
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
What happened in N.H.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.