Before his televised address at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday. President Obama spoke on a conference call to supporters whose tickets for the speech were voided because of a change to a smaller, indoor venue.
Obama was scheduled to speak at Bank of America Stadium, an outdoor football field with almost 74,000 seats, but convention organizers announced on Wednesday that the possibility of thunderstorms would force a move to the Time Warner Cable Arena, a basketball and hockey venue that seats only 20,000.
Obama called the switch “disappointing” and described some members of his staff as “crestfallen” but urged his backers to remain upbeat.
“We can’t let a little thunder and lightning get us down,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to roll with it.”
Some of the would-be attendees are people who earned tickets by volunteering on the Obama campaign in North Carolina for at least nine hours. Others flew to Charlotte from other parts of the country at their own expense, hoping to see the president in person.
“All I can tell you is I appreciate how much you’ve done,” Obama said.
“The problem was a safety issue,” he explained. “I could not ask you -- our volunteers, our law enforcement, first responders -- to subject themselves to the risk of severe thunderstorms.”
The forecast for Charlotte in the early hours of Thursday’s convention proceedings is poor, according to the Weather Channel: a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms at 7 p.m., 80 percent at 8 p.m. and 55 percent at 9 p.m. In the 10 p.m. hour, when Obama will speak, the forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a 20 percent chance of rain.
Republicans have suggested weather was not the Obama campaign’s true concern but that the president would not have been able to fill a massive outdoor stadium, as he did in Denver four years ago.
“You can’t believe a thing this administration says,” John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire and a prominent surrogate for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, said on Wednesday. “Their campaign promised you, rain or shine, the president would be speaking there. Then when they couldn’t get a crowd, they brought it inside.”
In a statement, convention spokeswoman Joanne Peters said the stadium would have been full and that 19,000 people were on a waiting list for tickets to the speech.
“The enthusiasm for this convention and this president has been overwhelming, and we were not expecting to have any empty seats,” Peters said. “This decision was first and foremost a public safety decision.”