Obama to speak at Bank of America stadium on DNC's final night

The Charlotte ObserverJanuary 17, 2012 

On the final night of this fall's Democratic National Convention, President Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech at Bank of America stadium, party sources told the Observer on Monday night.

Convention officials are expected to announce the venue this morning at a news conference at the stadium. Two party sources say the decision to use the stadium was made months ago.

The president will accept the nomination Sept. 6. So far, organizers have said only that plans call for holding the convention at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The move to the Carolina Panthers' 74,000-seat stadium would replicate the 2008 convention, where Obama accepted the nomination at a packed Invesco Field in Denver.

The move, which would open the speech to the public, is designed to help mobilize voters in North Carolina, a key swing state. It could also serve as a perk to donors, who could be rewarded with skybox seats.

"I think this would be a great opportunity to have tens of thousands of North Carolinians and others outside of the state to see and participate in the convention process," said Ed Turlington, a party official from Raleigh and a member of the convention's host committee.

Acceptance speeches typically draw the highest TV ratings of any convention. It will be one the best opportunities of the campaign for the president to reach a broad audience, and comes two months to the day before the election.

Last week, Bloomberg News reported that the convention was considering the stadium for Obama's acceptance speech. Quoting sources involved in convention fundraising, Bloomberg said the move would allow officials, struggling to raise money, to sell skyboxes to donors.

Two Democratic sources, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the information, said the stadium move is just one change that will be announced this morning. They did not elaborate.

In 2008, Democrats used the Denver speech to recruit volunteers and register voters by giving thousands of free tickets to the public. That year, Obama carried North Carolina by 14,000 votes. Convention and campaign officials have said they plan to work together to keep the state in the president's column.

Officials are trying to raise nearly $37 million under new Democratic Party rules that bar corporate or lobbyists' contributions or donations over $100,000.

They've been offering packages with different levels of incentives, including VIP passes and choice hotel rooms. The stadium could offer more options. The sources said organizers began considering the stadium in early 2011, before fundraising began.

The Republican convention, set to begin Aug. 27 in Tampa, has no similar restrictions on big donors.

However, the choice of Bank of America stadium for the speech may give ammunition to critics of the bank, which received a federal bailout after the 2008 financial crisis and also angered consumers with a proposed, though later dropped, $5 monthly debit-card transaction fee.

"It doesn't matter whose name is on the stadium," one of the party sources said. "President Obama has a record to run on holding Wall Street accountable, and there will be no doubt which candidate in the race is willing to stand up to Wall Street."

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