The Blog

The Incredible Shrinking Acceptance Speech

The forecast in Charlotte is cloudy, with a strong chance of empty seats.

2:55 PM, Sep 5, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Charlotte
It's been raining every afternoon during the Democratic convention, but from talking to the locals here, short afternoon showers are pretty common this time of year. One imagines that way back when Democrats booked the 74,000 seat Bank of America stadium for Obama's acceptance speech, someone did the due diligence to inquire what the weather might be like in Charlotte this time of year. The possibility of rain must have been considered.

BoA

So when the Obama campaign announced today that they were moving the President's acceptance speech from the outdoor stadium to the indoor 20,000 seat Time Warner Cable Arena, there are good reasons to be doubtful that this is happening because the forecast is a 30 percent chance of rain.

"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," says Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Steve Kerrigan in a press release. "The energy and enthusiasm for our convention in Charlotte has been overwhelming and we share the dissappointment of over 65,000 people who signed up for community credentials to be there with the president in person."

But if the Democratic energy and enthusiasm is "overwhelming," why did Democrats already cancel a convention kick-off event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which seats a whopping 135,000 people. Again, the official reason for canceling the event at the speedway was to "maximize accessibility, transportation, and proximity of all guests." But it's a safe bet the bad optics of holding an event in a vast stadium that Democrats had little to no chance of filling, must have also weighed heavily on convention organizers's minds.

Another clue that Democrats aren't willing to come out and admit the real reason for downsizing Obama's acceptance speech is that they keep insisting that Bank of America stadium's seating capacity is 65,000 rather than the 74,000 it seats for NFL games. "The way the stadium is constructed, its capacity is 74,000 for football,” said Obama communications director Brent Colburn yesterday. “Our capacity is going to be lower on Thursday night because of staging, place for media, security, so we’re looking at approximately 65,000. We expect 65,000 to show up.”

The trouble with this claim that this is the exact opposite of what happened when Obama accepted the nomination at Invesco Field Denver in 2008. "Invesco’s seating capacity was 76,125 in 2008, according to the Denver Broncos media guide for that year. But when Obama spoke there, DNC organizers estimated that he drew over 84,000. At the time, they were able to actually increase capacity by opening up the field to seating," observes The Washington Examiner's Phil Klein.

This also raises another interesting question: How many tickets did the Obama campaign give out? Several eyebrows were raised when it appeared in the weeks leading up to the convention Democrats were basically trolling through bars and other public places in an attempt to give tickets away. While it's hard to say how many tickets were given away, how many people made travel plans to come to Charlotte for the speech and are now about to be turned away?

Finally, it's already been well documented that 2012 Obama campaign is very sensitive about living up to the crowd sizes of the 2008 campaign. When Obama launched his campaign kick-off event at Ohio State University, he found himself looking out from the lectern and staring out at 4,000 empty seats. Democratic officials tried to shrug it off by pointing to Mitt Romney's relative inability to draw crowds, but Obamaland did not take the failure to fill seats on a large college campus very well. 

"But for a campaign struggling to recapture its fire the empty seats at Obama's announcement added up to a serious downer," writes Politico reporter Glenn Thrush in his e-book, "Obama's Last Stand." Thrush quotes one of the organizers of the OSU event, "It was a stark reminder of how different a year it was going to be."

If the inability to fill seats at the event at Ohio State was a "stark reminder," what must the Obama campaign be thinking about this colossal failure to fill the stadium in Charlotte? 

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers