Donald Trump has canceled the portion of the Republican National Congress that was due to be held in Jacksonville, Florida, his largest public retreat to date from the ferocity of the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. president’s insistence on a crowded crowd had forced the Republican National Committee to announce in June that it would move most of its agenda – including Trump’s acceptance speech as a candidate – from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, where health guidelines are stricter .
However, viral infections in Florida have risen since then, including a record 173 deaths on Thursday, forcing Trump to reluctantly pull the plug.
“I told my team it was time to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida portion of the convention,” he said at a press conference at the White House. “I’m still going to give a different congressional address, but we’re not going to be doing a big, crowded convention in and of itself. It’s just not the right time for it. “
The move is the latest and most glaring example of Trump bowing to the scientific reality of the pandemic that has now infected 4 million Americans and killed more than 144,000 people. A campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma last month suffered low turnout, presumably due in part to fears the virus would spread around the hall. Another new plan for an outdoor rally in New Hampshire has reportedly been canceled due to the weather.
After months of refusing to wear a face mask in public, Trump eventually did and urged people to do the same. He was still hoping to get a lively acceptance speech in front of a noisy crowd in Jacksonville; The candidates’ comments at the party convention are usually television moments that determine the presidential campaign.
The difficulties became apparent, however, when Jacksonville recently imposed a requirement that people wear masks indoors. Florida, ruled by Ron DeSantis, a strong ally of Trump, has become one of the hardest hit states, with 10,249 new cases reported Thursday. Finally the President threw in the towel.
When asked by reporters about the decision, he said, “I just thought it was wrong for people to go to a hotspot that turned out to be a hotspot. When we chose it, it wasn’t hot at all. It was free and suddenly it was quick. It happens quickly. It goes away and it goes away quickly. The key is that we want it to go away without many deaths and without many problems. “
Some events will continue as planned in Charlotte, Trump confirmed, including his nomination as party flag bearer. “We’re going to have a relatively quick meeting in North Carolina. The nomination will be produced and then we will announce what we do, how we do it, if it is something that is done online.
“Unfortunately there can be nothing comparable to our last conference. It was a great convention in a great place, as you know we had a great time, a great time in Cleveland. But it’s a different world and it will be for a while longer. We want to make the world what it was again. “
When asked which factor changed his mind, the president denied Florida officials asked him to cancel. “I would just say security. I could see the media say, ‘Oh, this is very unsafe.’ I don’t want to be in that position. It’s security – not because of the media, but they would say so, and we will have something very beautiful. We’ll think of something. “
Florida is Trump’s adopted home and an ongoing election battlefield. But even before the announcement on Thursday, Republican senators like Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Chuck Grassley had said they would not attend.
The Democrats were more cautious about their own congress in August. Some events will be held virtually, and some will continue to be held in person in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The party will nominate Joe Biden, the former vice president, as its candidate.