Trump cancels Florida segment of Republican National Convention

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WASHINGTON – Yielding to the threat of the coronavirus, US President Donald Trump has scrapped plans for a four-night celebration of the Republican National Convention in Florida, which was expected to draw more than 10,000 people to a pandemic hotspot to mark his re-appointment. Trump had previously moved the convention’s public events out of North Carolina due to virus concerns. But the peak virus has also moved south, and the planned Jacksonville rally increasingly appeared to be a risk to both health and politics. Trump and his advisers feared that moving forward with big parties and “infomercial” programs in Florida would ultimately backfire on the president.

“It’s a different world, and it will be for a little while,” Trump said, explaining his decision during a coronavirus briefing Thursday at the White House. “Organizing a big convention is not the right time. ”

A small subset of GOP delegates will officially rename Trump again on August 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina, in an event that will only last four hours.

Trump decided last month to move the ceremonial parts of the GOP convention to Florida over a dispute with Democratic leaders in North Carolina over holding an indoor rally with crowds of supporters taking a leave -pass for face masks.

But his plans for a large Florida rally began to wane almost as quickly as news of the move was announced, as cases of the virus increased in the state and other parts of the country.

Trump has said he plans to deliver his acceptance speech for the nomination in yet another form to be determined – possibly online. Trump’s Campaign Director Bill Stepien said the campaign “will always provide exciting, informative and enthusiastic programming so that Republicans can celebrate the re-appointments of President Trump and Vice President Pence.”

Trump said thousands of his supporters and delegates wanted to attend the events in Florida, but “I just thought it was wrong” to bring them together in a virus hot spot. Some of them were said to have faced quarantine requirements upon returning to their home countries after the convention.

“We didn’t want to take any risks,” he added. “We have to be vigilant. We have to be careful and we have to lead by example. ”

Democrats will hold an almost entirely virtual convention Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee using live broadcasts and online streaming, party officials say. Joe Biden plans to accept the presidential nomination in person, but it remains to be seen whether there will be a significant in-person hearing.

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to messages on Thursday requesting comment on Trump’s announcement.

In recent weeks, Trump’s aides and allies have urged the president to consider canceling the convention, arguing that it is not worth continuing with the event if the focus is on the pandemic. Trump acknowledged this consideration by saying, “I could see the media saying, ‘Oh, that’s very dangerous.’

After a three-month hiatus, Trump returned to the forefront of the government’s handling of the virus with regular briefings aimed at stemming an erosion of support in public and private polls that followed the surge in new cases of virus.

Trump said he did not cancel convention events at the request of local officials, but Jacksonville city council was due to meet on Friday to discuss security concerns around the rally.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former President of the Florida Republican Party, said he appreciated Trump “putting public health and safety first.”

“I know it was a difficult decision and only demonstrates and reaffirms once again his commitment to Jacksonville, the state of Florida and the people of the United States of America,” he said. “I’m grateful for him and for his leadership, and that was the right way forward. ”

Joe Gruters, current president of the Florida Republican Party and state senator for Sarasota, called it a “selfless movement.”

“Having our candidate in the home state was going to be a really big deal for Florida, but look, he was right,” Gruters said. “At the end of the day, it’s a matter of safety. ”

More than 10,000 people were expected in Jacksonville – already a fraction of the number that would typically attend a naming convention. Only 336 delegates will be allowed to participate in Charlotte under extraordinary procedures approved last month by the Republican National Committee. The rest of the more than 2,500 delegates will vote by proxy.

Cory Burkarth, a spokesperson for the City of Charlotte, said Thursday, “We have an agreement in place with the Republican National Committee to hold a greatly reduced business meeting and that’s what we plan to do. ”

The RNC had raised more than $ 35 million in contributions to the convention since 2017, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosures by The Associated Press. The list of donors for the now-canceled event reads like a who’s who of industry titans, power brokers and wealthy Republicans.

The RNC congress committee had spent $ 9.5 million until June. But that doesn’t take into account the expenses of the local host committee, which has pledged to raise $ 70 million.

Charlotte City Council voted in April to accept a $ 50 million federal grant for congressional security. City attorney Patrick Baker said the city has spent $ 14 million to prepare for the convention so far, but expected Charlotte to be reimbursed through the grant.

Farrington reported from Tallahassee, Florida.

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