CHARLOTTE — Senior Democratic officials here scoffed Wednesday morning at Republican criticisms of the decision to move President Obama’s DNC address indoors on Thursday, shutting out tens of thousands of community members to the event.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, suggested the decision was a move to save face in case the event didn’t pack the house. “After promising to speak at Bank of America stadium rain or shine, Team Obama is moving inside,” he tweeted after the announcement. “Troubles filling the seats?”
“[Republicans] are gonna turn this into a political decision. It was a public safety decision,” a senior campaign official told reporters at a briefing Wednesday morning, following the announcement that President Obama will no longer speak outdoors at Bank of America Stadium because of concerns over “extreme weather.”
More than 65,000 community members had activated community credentials to attend the event, and another 19,000 people were on a waiting list for the event. Democratic officials said they expected the lion’s share of those with credentials to attend, because they had to go through a multi-step process that involved visiting a campaign office, and later activating a code using a computer or mobile device, to show that they were serious about attending.
Convention organizers said President Obama would be calling some of the community members who will be turned away on Thursday, and that the campaign will invite those who can no longer attend to a make-up event before Election Day. Organizers said they’re encouraging local residents who activated their credentials to organize watch parties with their friends and neighbors.
On Tuesday, Obama campaign officials had said at a breakfast sponsored by ABC News and Yahoo that the event would go on, rain or shine, unless people’s safety was at risk.
A senior campaign official said he did not know how or when President Obama was informed of the change, or whether he played an active role in the decision.
On Monday, convention organizers declared that the goal of the event was inclusiveness, and said volunteers throughout North Carolina and nearby states had worked to earn tickets by enlisting in the “9-3-1” program, in which they sign up for nine hours of service in three shifts to earn one ticket to the Bank of America event.
“Our goal is to make sure as many people as possible get to participate,” one Democratic official said Wednesday. But, “we will not be able to honor those credentials” earned by community volunteers because of the venue change.
Democratic officials said that despite the taunting from Republicans about Obama’s ability to fill the stadium to capacity, the campaign was actually missing out on an organizing and registration opportunity by canceling the event.