Trump hoping for big indoor GOP convention, allies have concerns

Politics

FILE – In this July 21, 2016, file photo Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles as he addresses delegates during the final day session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. After months of insisting that the Republican National Convention go off as scheduled despite the coronavirus pandemic, Trump is slowly coming to accept that the event will not be the four-night informercial for his re-election that he had anticipated. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — After months of insisting that the Republican National Convention go off as scheduled despite the pandemic, President Donald Trump is slowly coming to accept that the late August event will not be the four-night infomercial for his reelection that he had anticipated.

After a venue change, spiking coronavirus cases and a sharp recession, Trump aides and allies are increasingly questioning whether it’s worth the trouble, and some are advocating that the convention be scrapped altogether. Conventions are meant to lay out a candidate’s vision for the coming four years, not spark months of intrigue over the health and safety of attendees, they have argued.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to move forward will be Trump’s alone.

Already the 2020 event has seen a venue change –- to more Trump-friendly territory in Jacksonville, Florida, from Charlotte, North Carolina — and it has been drastically reduced in scope. What is normally a highlight of the convention — the roll call of the states to renominate the president — is set to be conducted through proxy votes in the original host city.

Still, Trump and his aides had pinned their hopes on creating the pageantry of a formal acceptance speech in Jacksonville, envisioning an arena packed with supporters, without face masks. Outwardly, the White House and the RNC have said they’re full-steam ahead with the revised plan.

“We’re still moving forward with Jacksonville,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last week. “It’ll be a safe event. It will be a good event.”

But privately, concerns are mounting, and plans are being drawn up to further scale back the event or even shift it to entirely virtual. Officials who weeks ago had looked for the convention to be a celebration of the nation’s vanquishing of the virus now see it as a potent symbol of the pandemic’s persistence.

Organizers now plan to provide COVID-19 testing to all attendees daily, conduct frequent temperature checks and offer face coverings. Even so, Trump aides and allies fear that the entire spectacle will be overshadowed by attendee concerns and already heightened media scrutiny on the potential for the convention to be a “super-spreading” event.

Key decisions about the event, including precisely where or if Trump will appear, need to be made in the coming days to allow sufficient time for the build-out of the space.

Increasingly, aides are pushing Trump to move his acceptance speech outdoors to minimize the risk of virus transmission. But Trump has expressed reservations about an outdoor venue, believing it would lack the same atmosphere as a charged arena.

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