President Donald Trump said Thursday that plans for a large-scale Republican National Convention are being canceled, an acknowledgement of the flare-up in coronavirus cases in Jacksonville, FL.
Instead, Trump said that some convention activities will take place in its original locale, Charlotte, NC, but suggested that there would be virtual “tele-rallies.” He still plans to deliver an acceptance speech but in a “different form,” he said during a White House press briefing.
“We won’t do a big, crowded convention per se,” Trump told reporters on Thursday.
He and the RNC moved the major events of the convention, including his acceptance speech, to Jacksonville last month after a tiff with the governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Cooper had told the party that they would not be able guarantee that they would be able to hold a large-scale gathering as in past cycles, given the outbreak of the virus.
The convention is planned for Aug. 24-27.
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When the move was made to Jacksonville, reflecting Trump’s desire for a rally-like atmosphere as he accepted the party’s nomination, there were immediate concerns among local officials about the wisdom of holding such an event, which draws thousands of people in an indoor arena.
In the weeks after the move, the state of Florida saw a dramatic outbreak in coronavirus cases. More recently, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that plans for the convention were a “challenging situation,” while noting that a number of Republican senators already had announced plans to skip the event.
Trump’s decision might mean that the RNC plans will resemble more closely those of the Democrats, who already scaled back plans for a convention in Milwaukee. Joe Biden still will accept the party’s nomination in person, but in a smaller venue and with many delegates and attendees linked to the event virtually.
“I felt it was wrong to have people going to a hotspot,” Trump said.
He indicated that plans for the convention still are being worked out. “We’ll have a very nice something,” he said, while acknowledging that it will not be the same as in 2016. “There can be nothing like having 25,000 people,” he said.
Asked what changed his mind about holding the convention in Florida, Trump said, “Safety.” POTUS predicted that if a large-scale gathering moved forward, the media would key in on whether it was safe. “I could see the media saying, ‘Oh this is very unsafe. This is…’ I don’t want to be in that position. It’s safety — not because of the media, but that’s what they would say.”
Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa was billed as a return of the campaign to large-scale events, but turnout was less than expected, as health officials expressed concerns of the spread of the coronavirus at indoor gatherings.
Trump talked about the convention plans at his third coronavirus task force briefing in as many days. Unlike the previous two, there was a member of the White House coronavirus task force present in the briefing room — Dr. Deborah Birx — but she did not speak. New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera also was there, and Trump called him out several times.
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