The RNC got knocked out by coronavirus—what now for the GOP?

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Photo via Walt Disney Television/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

After months of planning ways to go forward with an in-person Republican National Convention, President Trump announced on July 23 that he was canceling the Jacksonville component of the RNC event. 

As COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to surge while surpassing 400,000—the third-most in the country at the time of his decision—Trump cited the pandemic as his reason to cancel the convention. 

“I looked at my team, and I said the timing for this event is not right, just not right with what’s happened recently. The flare-up in Florida to have a big convention is not the right time,” Trump said in a White House coronavirus briefing, via the Washington Post. “It’s really something that for me, I have to protect the American people. That’s what I’ve always done. That’s what I always will do. That’s what I’m about.”

The in-person aspects of the RNC had been moved to Florida from North Carolina after Gov. Roy Cooper (D) had said he didn’t support hosting an event that could draw thousands during a pandemic. 

The BBC reports that part of the convention will still occur in its original venue of Charlotte for a half-day on Aug. 24, so Trump can be formally nominated as the Republican presidential nominee. Trump will reportedly still give a convention speech—just not in front of thousands of fans like he’d been advocating for until his announcement to cancel (or the thousands he’d previously spoken to during a rally in Oklahoma, which led to a local spike in coronavirus cases two weeks later). 

NPR reported the GOP hasn’t decided how it will conduct the part of the RNC that was supposed to be hosted in Jacksonville. 

“We’ll have a very nice something. We’ll figure it out,” Trump said. “It’ll be online in some form. Maybe it’ll be something even a little bit different. We have time.” 

In a joint statement, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry (R) and Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams said they were grateful Trump decided to call off the RNC. 

Traditionally, the GOP National Convention lasts four days and features numerous speeches by the country’s top Republican politicians. Almost 2,500 delegates also cast their bid for the Republican presidential nominee; the BBC says it’s unclear how many of those delegates will be present this year, thanks to the pandemic. The GOP also usually votes on and announces the newest version of the party’s platform. 

As for the Democratic National Convention in August that will nominate Joe Biden as its party’s presidential nominee, most of it will occur virtually as well with a small contingent of people participating in person in Milwaukee. 

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