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President Obama’s move indoors for election night reflects changing circumstances (and a poor weather forecast)

CHICAGO – The change in venue for President Obama’s election night rally here reflects the change in his political profile from the nation’s first African-American major party nominee with a solid lead in the polls to something a bit more typical, an incumbent whose chances of winning a second term are a bit uncertain.

Obama this time around is planning to speak to the public from behind the walls of a Chicago convention center instead of Grant Park, the scene in 2008 of Obama’s victory speech that attracted an estimated 240,000 people. Chicagoans still remember that emotional 2008 scene and have lamented the change.

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This time, supporters must have tickets to get in to the McCormick Place convention center. There has been some speculation in the Chicago media that an open-air venue for supporters to gather may yet materialize, but there has been no announcement from the campaign.

Considerations on the location change range from logistics, security, the weather -- and most likely (though the campaign does not acknowledge this) the extremely tight nature of the race.

In 2008, Obama commanded a lead in the polls and it was fairly clear the race would be called in his favor as soon as the polls closed on the West Coast. Four years later, with a razor-thin margin in national and swing-state polls, supporters may have to wait until the wee hours of the morning or even until Wednesday to find out if Obama wins or loses. That is clearly not a scenario conducive to a massive outdoor gathering.

The change to the McCormick Center was announced in mid-October. After their experience in Charlotte, the weather was clearly on the minds of Obama’s team.

At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September, organizers moved Obama’s acceptance speech from a football stadium to the city’s indoor concert and sports arena because of a poor weather forecast. The campaign says that was a disruptive move for planners and security officials.

This week, clouds again loom on the horizon. The forecast for Tuesday night in Chicago is 44 degrees and steady showers.

Christopher Rowland can be reached at
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