CHARLOTTE—Today’s big story in Charlotte was the decision to move President Obama’s Thursday speech indoors. He was supposed to speak at the Bank of America Stadium. Instead, he will speak at the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the rest of the convention is taking place. The official explanation is weather: The forecast suggests a chance of thunderstorms, something we’ve already had this week.
For a while now, even party insiders were nervous about the venue-not because they feared bad weather, but because they feared a less-than-full house. The stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, seats more than 70,000 people. And the media would be sure to play up even a small number of empty seats as failure. (The arena holds a little over 20,000.)
Did campaign officials make the switch precisely because they feared such a possibility? I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that they did. But here are three reasons to suspect that they didn’t. The first is that the decision will disappoint a lot of groups who were distributing tickets to members. The second is that the campaign will have to re-accommodate donors that paid for skyboxes. The third is that the campaign and administration officials I’ve seen today seem genuinely disappointed that Obama won’t get a chance to reprise his performance in Denver, when he spoke to the football stadium at Mile High.
On that last point, by the way, I think they are wrong. I wasn’t at Denver, so I can’t offer a personal assessment of how that speech played live. But, on television, I thought it played like any other speech that Obama gave. The crowd was impressive, for sure. John McCain coudn’t fill an NFL stadium then any more than Mitt Romney could today. But the reception seemed no more raucous than if Obama had been speaking in a hockey arena. And let’s face it: Even if Obama did fill the football stadium on Thursday, he wasn’t going to generate the kind of enthusiasm he did in 2008. That was a unique year and a unique historical moment. The stakes in this election may be even higher, but the drama of the convention speech probably won’t convey that.
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