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Convention organizers: Obama speech will happen no matter the weather

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama’s speech in an open-air football stadium Thursday will go forward “rain or shine,” the CEO of the Democratic National Convention told reporters Monday.

Much like four years ago in Denver, a key subplot of the party’s convention has become a weather-watch. Obama plans to accept his nomination at the open-air Bank of America Stadium rather than the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the first two days of the convention will be held.

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The National Weather Service forecast at midday Monday called for a 30 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms on Thursday night.

“The event on Thursday is going on rain or shine at this point,” the convention CEO, Steve Kerrigan, said.

He noted that convention organizers do have contingency plans in the event of more severe weather, and he said safety is a priority. A wash-out would push the speech indoors to the Time Warner Cable Arena. That could present a logistical nightmare, however, since the football stadium seats tens of thousands more spectators.

Weather worries aside, Democrats opened their week here with bravado, saying the party would show Republicans “how it’s really done” with the staging of its national convention.

“This is a convention that will be more than a little different” than the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, chairman of the Democratic National Convention. “We’re going to show them how it’s really done.”

At their opening media briefing, Democratic convention organizers trumpeted themes of openness and diversity. “This convention is the most open and accessible in history,” Kerrigan said.

Organizers said women would compose 50 percent of the nearly 6,000 delegates, a figure that also included more Latinos than ever. The oldest delegate was born in 1914, while the youngest has yet to turn 18 (but will by Election Day).

The convention’s secretary, Alice Germond, said every delegate would have a copy of the party’s platform waiting for him or her on Tuesday — a swipe at Republicans, who refused to release their platform until the party approved it in a contentious process last week. “Nothing secret, nothing behind the back,” she said.

Democrats are hoping to use the three-day convention, which officially begins Tuesday, to generate a renewed enthusiasm for Obama’s reelection. Party officials noted that the first polls following the convention last week showed Mitt Romney with a minimal post-convention bounce.

Democrats said the convention would showcase the “good Southern hospitality” of Charlotte, the nation’s fastest-growing metro region. And they readily acknowledged they hope it will help Obama in North Carolina, where he won in 2008 but has trailed Romney slightly in many polls. “We are thrilled to have our party fighting for the South, and we think that is a very important statement,” the city’s Democratic mayor, Anthony Foxx, said.

As for North Carolina, Foxx said, “I don’t think it’ll be an easy state to win, but I think it is a state [Obama] can win.”