#EmptyChairDay: Low Attendance Forces Obama to Move Thursday Speech

#EmptyChairDay: Low Attendance Forces Obama to Move Thursday Speech

Clint Eastwood scored a victory over his critics Wednesday as the Democratic National Convention announced that it has moved President Obama’s acceptance speech on Thursday night from the 74,000-seat outdoor Bank of America Stadium to the 20,000-seat indoor Time Warner Cable Arena. 

DNC officials, who earlier this week promised to hold the outdoor event “rain or shine,” suddenly discovered a moderate chance of rain was too great a health risk to the President and the attendees. 

The real risk, of course, was to the health of the President’s re-election campaign. It became obvious that the number of empty chairs in the stadium, so soon after national #EmptyChairDay, would transform the event into a Twitter hashtag in which conservatives would find great delight: #EmptyStadiumDay.

Even with reports that the DNC was busing church groups in from several adjacent states and handing out free Obama speech tickets at bars in the Charlotte area, it was a certainty that an outdoor speech would be dominated by the visual imagery of empty chairs and a half-filled stadium. Conservatives on Twitter and Facebook were poised to grab the “Empty Chair” meme first introduced in Eastwood’s RNC speech, which spread more broadly on Monday through social media in the highly successful “National Empty Chair Day,” and use it to ridicule President Obama’s #EmptyStadiumDay speech. 

Fear of this tactic was likely a major factor in the DNC’s decision to switch to a smaller venue for tomorrow’s address, despite attempts by Democrats and their messaging allies in the mainstream media to blame “severe weather” for the change.

It’s a truism in political campaigns that you always schedule a speech or an event in a venue that you know is small enough for your supporters to pack. The Obama campaign team miscalculated badly–reflecting perhaps the hubris of their boss–when they selected the spacious Bank of America Stadium as the setting for his acceptance speech. (Democrats, who have demagogued against banks for the past several years, were uncomfortable with the name, referring to it repeatedly–and incorrectly–as “Panthers Stadium.”

The move draws attention to this painful fact for Democrats: the Obama campaign of 2012 is not the Obama campaign of 2008. In contrast to his 2008 acceptance speech to a crowd of 84,000 at Invesco Field in Denver, which demonstrated authentic support for the campaign’s theme of Hope and Change, Obama’s 2012 acceptance speech to a smaller-than-hoped-for audience demonstrates that the general public is largely disappointed in the failed promises of the soaring oratory that echoed off those Greek columns in 2008.

As Clint Eastwood might say, Democrats in 2012 are clearly not feeling lucky.


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