The announcement that Barack Obama will accept his nomination at a 75,000-seat football stadium and not at the site of the Democratic National Convention raises the obvious question: When John McCain accepts the Republican nomination, will he try to counter Obama’s move by giving his acceptance at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome?
“No,” said Melissa Subbotin, a deputy press secretary for the Republican Party committee handling arrangements.
Just in case I didn’t get it the first time, she said it again. “No.”
This apparently has nothing to do with Sen. McCain’s ability to draw a crowd. Given all the talk of protesters coming to town, it sounds as if he could fill the 63,000-seat Metrodome with road-closing anarchists, if not members of his party, on the Sept. 4 night he officially accepts his party’s nomination.
Republicans, Democrats disagree on stadium strategy
But Republicans say they’re not interested in tawdry showmanship and crowds of 75,000 cheering people. Matt Burns, director of communications for the Republican Convention, issued a statement belittling Obama’s decision to move his Aug. 28 acceptance speech to Mile High Stadium in Denver.
“Not surprisingly, Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats are more focused on stagecraft and theatrics than providing real solutions to the challenges facing our nation,” Burns said in the statement. “A change of venue for a speech isn’t the kind of change the American people deserve or expect — and that’s why we’re confident the next President of the United States will be nominated at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.”
Not surprisingly, Democrats see this differently. They see deep meaning in Obama’s change of venue.
In a conference call with reporters to announce the move to the football stadium, party Chairman Howard Dean, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, all praised the decision as a symbol of the change Obama intends to bring to the country.
“This is in keeping with his philosophy of opening the process up to the people,” said Dean, who used the word “extraordinary” a couple of times in talking about the decision to move the speech from Denver’s Pepsi Center to Mile High Stadium.
A note of personal bitterness here on behalf of MinnPost: Reporters taking part in this telephone news conference were asked to press “1” if they had a question. I pressed “1.” I had a bunch of questions I wanted to ask, including if delegates had been consulted about sharing their convention with the great unwashed and whether they thought McCain would speak at the Metrodome. But Dean and the others answered two questions from Associated Press reporters, one question from a Congressional Quarterly reporter, one question from USA Today and one question each from reporters from Denver’s two newspapers, the Post and the Rocky Mountain News.
Just when I thought it was MinnPost’s turn, I heard the moderator say, “That’s the end of the news conference.” Click.
Most of the questions asked of Dean were about the financial problems the New York Times says the Democrats are having with their convention. Although he admitted the Obama campaign has moved into Denver full force “to help,” Dean denied there are convention money problems. He said moving the speech from the basketball arena to the football stadium proves that the convention is on solid financial ground.
“If we were over budget, we wouldn’t be doing this,” said Dean.
Stadium idea surfaced two weeks ago
Apparently, Obama’s staff came up with the idea of moving into the stadium about two weeks ago. Dean said many details — who will be allowed to come, new security arrangements, how much the move will cost — still are being studied.
But the Obama campaign already has sent out a note to its supporters about how “Barack would like you to join him” for the event. Free tickets will be available, the campaign said.
It also has come up with a scheme to raise some money with this move. A note sent to supporters offered this deal: “If you make a donation of $5 or more between now and midnight on July 31, you could be one of 10 supporters chosen to fly to Denver and spend two days and nights at the convention, meet Barack backstage and watch his acceptance speech in person. … Make a donation now and you could have a front row seat to history.”
Bill Lester, who heads the stadium commission, said both Republicans and Democrats had looked at the Dome as well as Target Center and Xcel Energy Center when scouting the Twins Cities as a potential convention site. Other than Howard Dean, Lester said, the Democrats were “afraid of the Dome. They didn’t want a sea of empty seats.”
Republicans, he said, weren’t so leery of the dome. They’d held their 1988 convention in the New Orleans Superdome, where George H.W. Bush was nominated.
For his part, Lester is not afraid of a stadium filled with anarchists. He said that happens about 10 times a year, except those anarchists are known as “Vikings fans.”
Just in case the Republicans change their mind, it appears the Metrodome is available on Sept. 4.