By Julie Pace and Ken Thomas Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democratic officials are moving President Barack Obama’s convention speech Thursday indoors because of the possibility of severe weather.
Obama had planned to accept his party’s nomination in an outdoor football stadium before a crowd of up to 74,000 people. But Obama officials said forecasters have predicted severe thunderstorms Thursday in the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. hour, raising concerns about the safety of supporters, volunteers, staff members and law enforcement.
Officials said Thursday’s entire program would be moved indoors, including Vice President Joe Biden’s speech. The events will be held at the Time Warner Cable Arena, the site of the first two days of the convention proceedings.
The move will significantly reduce the number of people Obama will speak to in person.
Republicans, who canceled the first day of their own convention due to weather in Tampa, Fla., accused Democrats of downgrading their events because of low enthusiasm.
“Problems filling the seats?” mused Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.
The National Weather Service’s forecast for Charlotte calls for a 40-percent chance of thunderstorms. The high will be 87 degrees.
Steve Kerrigan, who heads the Democratic convention, said more than 65,000 people had signed up for credentials to attend the outdoor speech but now could not be accommodated because of the smaller venue. He said organizers were encouraging those credential holders and “Americans across the country to continue to come together with their friends and neighbors to watch and participate in history.”
Kerrigan said Obama would speak to those credential holders on a national conference call Thursday afternoon. “We will work with the campaign to ensure that those unable to attend tomorrow’s event will be invited to see the president between now and Election Day,” he said.
Forecasts for Thursday night had been improving all through the week. The National Weather Service said Wednesday morning that there is a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, but it would drop to 20 percent by the time the president was scheduled to speak.
But there was still no guarantee there wasn’t going to be bad weather for Obama’s speech. “We’re dealing with a warm, unstable air mass, so you can never, absolutely say it’s not going to rain or storm,” meteorologist Bryan McAvoy said.
It has rained every day since Saturday in Charlotte. Strong storms brought downpours of nearly an inch Monday and Tuesday.
Jan Bauer, a delegate from Ames, Iowa, said she was thrilled about the move `because it’s not very comfortable sitting in the rain.”