Obama’s Empty Chairs

Campaign goes into spin mode after surprise move of acceptance speech from stadium to arena

WikiMedia Commons
September 5, 2012

The Obama reelection campaign jumped into spin mode Wednesday after the surprise announcement that the president would accept his party’s nomination for a second term not at Bank of America Stadium, where the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers play, but at the Time Warner Cable Arena where the convention was gaveled into order Tuesday.

The Obama campaign communications team said the move was out of concern for public safety and fear of severe weather. However, current weather forecasts call for a 30 percent to 40 percent chance of afternoon showers and isolated thunderstorms. That percentage falls to 20 percent during the hour in which President Obama is scheduled to address the convention and nation. NFL games are rarely canceled due to weather, as shown in this video:

Many had questioned whether the Obama team could fill a football stadium after four years of a polarized presidency. The Bank of America Stadium has a capacity of 73,000 people; the Obama campaign said that 65,000 people would attend the speech. The president’s ability to reach that number will never be known, since the address has now been moved to an arena with a capacity of around 20,000 people.

Obama campaign officials were quick to dismiss the notion that they had moved the speech because of a lack of enthusiasm. Obama for America spokesman Ben LaBolt called such speculation "unfortunate." To dispute the charge, Obama officials said that there was in fact a waiting list to get into Bank of America Stadium—one report put the wait list at 19,000 people, but another report pegged it at 15,000 people. A report this week from a local outlet said the campaign was still trying to fill seats as late as September 2.

However, a review of the Lexis-Nexis news database shows that the Obama campaign did not mention a "wait list" until Sept. 5—the day they announced the location of the president’s speech had been changed.