"I'll still do a convention speech in a different form," Trump said Thursday, "but we won't do a big crowded convention, per se"

By Sean Neumann
July 23, 2020 07:14 PM
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President Donald Trump speaks on Thursday at the White House.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Citing "safety concerns" amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the celebratory offshoot of the Republican National Convention that was slated for Florida in late August was now being canceled.

The abrupt move — after an already confusing series of scheduling swaps with the RNC that saw the convention essentially break into two parts — left several questions about if, how and when the president and his party would celebrate his re-election campaign this summer.

(Rival Joe Biden and the Democrats will hold a slimmed-down party convention of their own in Wisconsin in August, though that even will also be much different than past DNCs.)

Trump made the announcement after weeks of uncertain back-and-forth with state officials in North Carolina and in Florida about whether Republicans could hold an in-person nomination during the pandemic.

"I looked at my team and I said, 'The timing for this event is not right,' " Trump, 74, told reporters Thursday. "It's just not right with what's been happening."

The president was originally set to accept the party's official nomination — with all of its customary pomp and circumstance and a triumphal speech to kick off the fall campaign — in North Carolina.

But the state's Democratic leadership told the president's campaign he would need to find another location to host his desired in-person convention, given that the pandemic made large in-person gatherings unsafe.

Earlier this month, Trump complained that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper made it "impossible" for the party to host its convention there.

Instead Republicans had decided on a split approach, with the campaign hosting a more traditional celebration in Jacksonville, Florida, with thousands of attendees set to see Trump accept his party's nomination; while Republican officials conducted the technical business of the convention in North Carolina, without guests.

President Donald Trump looks at a map of coronavirus cases in the United States on Thursday at the White House.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
President Donald Trump points to a map of coronavirus cases in the United States.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Now, Trump says an in-person convention also isn't possible in Jacksonville because of how coronavirus cases have spiked there.

"I just felt it was wrong to have people going to what turned out to be a hot spot," he said Thursday. "When we chose it, it was not at all hot. It was free. And all of the sudden it happened quickly. It happens quickly. And it goes away, and it goes away quickly. The key is we want it to go away without a lot of death, without a lot of problems."

At least 5,517 people have died in Florida from the coronavirus, according to a New York Times tracker.

There have been at least 389,860 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 in the state and 77,809 of those have been confirmed in the last week.

The president's 2020 campaign would not comment on the convention's changed plans, instead pointing back to the president's surprise remarks at the White House.

Trump told reporters that although the Jacksonville gathering was canceled, the RNC will still host its virtual convention the same week, starting Aug. 24 back in North Carolina, where delegates will gather to nominate him as the party's official 2020 candidate.

"I'll still do a convention speech in a different form," Trump said. "But we won't do a big crowded convention, per se. It's just not the right time for that."

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