Lessons learned in Charlotte: Don't bet on the weather

September 06, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An afternoon thunderstorm in downtown Charlotte gave Democrats some measure of comfort Thursday, validating organizers’ decision to bring the final night of the convention indoors.

But it also served to underscore the inherent gamble they were taking by attempting to hold the proceedings in the open air in the first place.

Four years ago, Denver proved to be a more hospitable setting for Barack Obama to deliver his acceptance speech outside. When his campaign team first explored the idea, they were so nervous about the possibility of rain that they asked the meteorologists union to study 100 years worth of conditions for the city on the day of the speech. The meteorologists found that, out of those 100 days, it had rained just once.

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In “Audacity to Win,” his account of the 2008 campaign, David Plouffe recounts how Obama asked his team what could be done if rain did arrive. “Well, what if this is the one time?” Obama asked. “Can we look at the most detailed forecast that morning and decide to go back inside?”

“Unfortunately not,” was Plouffe’s answer.

Even without the same data readily available, it seems reasonable to assume the campaign knew that the conditions in Charlotte this time of year would not be nearly as accommodating as in the Mile High City.

“I've got to tell you, I saw some of my key staff who had come down here, and they've literally been working nonstop for months just getting the logistics of this all put together,” the president told holders of “community credentials” who were to see his speech Thursday evening at Bank of America Stadium, but won’t be able to attend the festivities at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

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Party officials still feel confident they’ll leave North Carolina with a boost from the convention, with the enthusiasm of party activists for the slate of speakers overshadowing some non-weather-related glitches — most notably with regard to the party platform.

But the lasting legacy seems to be this: it’s unlikely any other party will attempt any outdoor convention events on the scale of those attempted here.

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