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Torrential rain fails to sour mood at Obama fest

05 september 2012, 14:11
Braving bouts of torrential rain, tens of thousands of supporters of President Barack Obama took over downtown Charlotte Monday as Jeff Bridges and James Taylor kicked off festivities for the Democratic convention, AFP reports.

The crowd around the main stage in the North Carolina boomtown shrank during Taylor's headline act as families with young children fled, but the mood was upbeat as Democrats were determined not to let the downpours spoil the party.

"We wont let the rain dampen our spirits. We have a mission in our hearts," exclaimed Taylor, a five-time Grammy Award winner and one of North Carolina's most famous sons, before launching into hits like "You've Got a Friend."

"Hello, Democrats!" Oscar-winning actor Bridges shouted as he lent Hollywood star power to proceedings, performing a short set of country songs and an impromptu mime act with actor brother Beau, pulled up from the crowd.

When the rains came the scene quickly changed to one of hysteria, people fleeing in all directions for any sort of cover. Umbrellas were shared between strangers as festival-goers cowered under tents stocked with Obama memorabilia.

Others sat or stood their ground, allowing the water to drench them. An hour later, many young children were soaked to the skin and visibly shivering as parents whisked them home.

Sheltering in King's Kitchen restaurant, James Taylor fans and Obama supporters Judy and Terry McDonald blamed the Republicans for America's economic woes and hoped Obama would prevail in the November election.

"If Romney wins we're moving to Canada," Judy joked, saying the last time they threatened that -- when George W. Bush won -- their seven-year-old daughter believed them and actually packed her suitcase.

"Progress is being made and there's absolutely no new ideas on the other side," her husband told AFP . "The Republican Party is captive to its right wing. The nut side."

The 55-year-old Charlotte resident said he didn't know what Obama could have done differently apart from perhaps set expectations a bit lower as the Republican leadership had pursued a policy of blanket opposition in Congress.

"Obama wanted to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats. That's like the relationship between a guy and a girl. If either one wants to make out but the other doesn't, it goes nowhere," he said.

Bob Davis, 61, and also from Charlotte was not convinced, saying he was independent and he and his wife had just come from the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida and would probably split their vote.

"We're going to compare the two. We want to hear an answer to what we're going to do to resolve the situations the country is in right now, instead of yelling at each other."

David Meltsner, 51, another Charlotte resident who was hosting several friends from out of town, said he wasn't happy with everything the president had done but there was no way he would vote Republican.

"I just believe they're for the rich and we've had enough distribution of wealth to the one percent. I think it's time for the middle-class to grow and I think it will be a lot better under Obama."

With polls showing Obama and Romney neck-and-neck nine weeks before Americans go to the polls, his friend, Ed Tant, 65, from Atlanta, Georgia reckoned it would be a close call but didn't like the look of Romney.

"He seems like a really sad case to me because when he was governor of Massachusetts he governed as a moderate, but now he will push to the right, he's being made a hostage by the Tea Party people and the reactionary right."

Going by the commercialization of Obama on show at the CarolinaFest, it would be easy to conclude wrongly that he was a shoo-in for re-election.

For $20, you could purchase a massive Obama/Martin Luther King poster with an artificially combined message from the two African American icons: "The audacity to have a dream."

The "Funny Bling Bling for Serious Times" stand had a whole range of Obama jewelry on offer. Another stall sold six-packs of Obama chocolates decorated with his signature and the Democratic logo for just under 10 bucks.

Democrats will be crossing their fingers that the rain stays away on Thursday when Obama is to make his prime-time acceptance speech to a packed open-air stadium. Police estimated 30,000 people attended Monday's CarolinaFest.

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