The Republican National Convention won’t come to Jacksonville after all. President Trump has pulled the plug, citing the COVID-19 “flare-up in Florida.”
During a COVID briefing at the White House, Trump said his advisers had shown him “absolutely beautiful” plans for the proceedings. “I never thought we could have something look so good so fast with everything going on,” the president said.
“But I looked at my team and I said, ‘The timing for this event is not right. It’s just not right with what’s happened recently, the flare-up in Florida, to have a big convention. It’s not the right time,” Trump said.
“I have to protect the American people. That’s what I’ve always done, it’s what I always will do, that’s what I’m about.”
Instead, delegates will convene as originally scheduled in Charlotte, N.C., to renominate Trump.
“We’re going to do some other things with tele-rallies and online,” Trump said.
“I’ll still do a convention speech in another form but we won’t do a big, crowded convention per se. It’s just not the right time for that.”
Florida has become one of the country’s worst COVID hot spots. Earlier on Thursday, the Florida Department of Health announced it had received 10,249 new positive COVID-19 test results as of Wednesday and 173 Florida resident deaths, for a total 389,868 Florida cases and 5,518 deaths.
The president has recently evidenced more concern for the pandemic after months of playing down the caseload and deaths and predicting it would go away on its own; see this Business Insider report.
Trump said he’s informed Gov. Ron DeSantis, who led the cheerleading for bringing convention events to Florida after North Carolina authorities signaled they wouldn’t allow a traditional, crowded, convention. Trump also informed Jacksonville officials, he said.
There was no immediate reaction from the governor’s office. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams released this joint written statement:
“We appreciate President Donald Trump considering our public health and safety concerns in making this incredibly difficult decision. As always, in Jacksonville public safety is our number one priority. President Trump has one again reaffirmed his commitment to the safety of Jacksonville and the people of the United States of America.”
Earlier in the week, Williams declared that it would be impossible to provide security for the convention. In late June, DeSantis had insisted, “I think we’ll be fine,” by the time the convention opened. It had been scheduled to run through Aug. 27.
Plans had called for a mixture of indoor and outdoor ceremonies and limits on the number of participants.
Terri Rizzo, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, praised the move.
“I’m glad Donald Trump took his head out of the sand long enough to realize what a predictable, preventable disaster he was about to inflict on the city of Jacksonville,” she said. “His ego-driven political stunt has wasted precious time and resources during a pandemic, and Floridians will remember his reckless leadership in November.”
Trump said he made the call despite aides’ entreaties to proceed anyway in light of the “great enthusiasm” for the event.
“I said, ‘There’s nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe.’”