CHARLOTTE – After a day of speculation and rumors, the Democratic National Committee has made the decision to move President Obama's Thursday night acceptance speech to the Time Warner Arena instead of using the Bank of America Stadium that holds 73,000-plus people. Severe weather was given as the primary reason but some Democrats are saying the concern over an inability to fill all the seats also played a role.
The DNC convention officially kicked off on Tuesday and showers fell hard that afternoon and also rained out part of Monday's Carolina fest that featured such acts as James Taylor and Jeff Bridges.
In announcing the decision, DNC officials said the weather was their greatest concern.
"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," said DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan.
Convention planners were planning to showcase the president's speech to the thousands of delegates and guests, but also wanted to include thousands of other "non-credentialed" spectators they call "community credential holders." In essence, these are Democratic supporters who hold no official designation or party position and are unable to access the Charlotte Convention Center or the arena.
Officials had said Thursday evening's event would take place rain or shine.
Responding to the comment, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul tweeted a question on Wednesday, asking, "What happened to rain or shine?"
What DNC or Obama officials are mum about are reports that they were unable to fill enough of the 65,000 seats that were available to view center stage.
Ed Barnes, a political activist in North and South Carolina, told The Christian Post on Tuesday that DNC officials had also been trying to bus black church members and college students from as far away as South Carolina and Georgia in hopes of filling thousands of unclaimed seats and that their efforts were being challenged by logistics and timing.
"I know for a fact some DNC staffers went to Atlanta and tried to encourage young voters to drive over to Charlotte for Thursday night's speech and that they were nervous that enough of them would make the trip, especially if poor weather conditions persisted," said Barnes. "I also heard from some black ministers that they were going to send buses around the region to bring church members into Charlotte."
Yet DNC officials say that is not true. "We could have easily filled the stadium and would have ended up disappointing hundreds of other citizens who would have wanted in," said a DNC staffer who declined to give his name as he was moving through the convention center on Wednesday. "But Romney couldn't even attract more than 1,200 supporters the last time he appeared in a stadium."
The stadium reference was a slight at the Romney campaign when he gave a speech in February to a small crowd in Detroit's Ford Field that holds around 80,000 people.
Obama campaign spokespersons are saying the president intends to hold a conference call with several thousand community credential holders this week and will continue to reach out to others in the next 62 days.
The decision to move the speech is said to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thursday's weather forecast for the Charlotte area calls for a 30 percent chance of rain and a low of 69 degrees.