Remember the 2008 Democratic National Convention? Then-Senator Obama had no problem attracting a stadium of 84,000 enthralled supporters for his acceptance speech, a speech filled with soaring promises of change and assurances that yes, we can. Ah, the glory days.
But as the Boss said, they will indeed pass you by.
Cut to Charlotte 2012, where the DNC is reportedly mulling a move from the 74,000-capacity Bank of America Stadium (or Panther Stadium, if you're a squeamish Democrat), where President Obama's acceptance speech was initially scheduled to take place, back to the Time Warner Cable Arena with the rest of the convention. They're blaming inclement weather, but there are some real fears that Obama can't pack 'em in like he used to. Only 20,000 adoring fans can fit at the Time Warner Arena -- but at the very least, officials figure they can get that many people to show up.
Forward! Hope'n'change [of venue]!
Speaking at a background briefing for the press, a Democratic official said that the speech would be given in the stadium ‘rain or shine’ before quickly adding a major caveat.
‘We do have a contingency plan, though, for lightning or other severe weather,’ he said. ‘We don't want to put anyone in harm's way so that's really what we're looking for, not if it's going to rain but if it's going to be really bad.
Another official said that the use of the stadium was being reviewed ‘on an ongoing basis and we’ll keep you informed on any decision’.
Democratic convention sources have indicated that the ‘contingency plan’ is at an advanced stage and that a move to the stadium appears certain.
‘It looks like a done deal to me,’ said one convention worker. ‘The decision’s apparently been taken and it’s just a matter of spinning it as being forced on us by the weather.’
Indeed, that spin will be problematic, and perhaps these officials should have checked Weather.com before they preemptively blamed the forecast. Here's the week in Charlotte (as of 1:10PM, Sept. 4):
Thursday has no mention of any potential thunderstorms, and the chance of rain is only 20% -- and that aforementioned official claimed 'Bank of America Stadium, rain or shine," so based on their weather contingency plan, all systems should be go, right?
But hubris led the DNC's planning committee to assume that Obama's popularity remains where it was in '08, and now they're stuck with the imminent, cosmetically disastrous possibility of photos of the boss speaking to empty seats. Perhaps he can only pack in 20,000 this time around -- which is still bigger than his largest 2012 audience of 14,000 to date -- but better to have a smaller crowd, a flip-flop in venue choice, and good optics, seems to be the thinking.
Still...the weather is some poetic justice. At least it appears their embarrassing overplanning won't be vindicated by lightning.