WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he has scrubbed his planned Republican National Convention scheduled for Florida next month, citing a “flare-up” of the coronavirus.
Trump’s formal renomination will still go forward in North Carolina, where a small subset of GOP delegates will still gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, for just four hours on Aug. 24. Florida was to have hosted four nights of programming and parties that Trump had hoped would be a “four-night infomercial” for his reelection.
“It’s a different world, and it will be for a little while,” Trump said, explaining his decision. “To have a big convention is not the right time,” Trump added.
Trump moved the ceremonial portions of the GOP convention to Florida last month amid a dispute with North Carolina’s Democratic leaders over holding an event indoors with maskless supporters. But those plans were steadily scaled back as virus cases spiked in Florida and much of the country over the last month.
Trump said he would deliver an acceptance speech in an alternate form, potentially online.
Trump said thousands of his supporters and delegates wanted to attend the events in Florida, but “I just felt it was wrong” to attract them to a virus hotspot. Some of them would have faced quarantine requirements when they returned to their home states from the convention.
“We didn’t want to take any chances,” he added. “We have to be vigilant. we have to be careful and we have to set an example.”
In recent weeks, Trump aides and allies have encouraged the president to consider calling off the convention, advising him it was not worth going forward with the event if the focus would be on the pandemic. Trump acknowledged that consideration, saying, “I could see the media saying, ‘Oh, this is very unsafe.’”
More than 10,000 people were expected in Jacksonville — already a fraction of the number that would attend a normal convention. Only 336 delegates will be allowed to participate in Charlotte under extraordinary procedures approved last month by the Republican National Committee. The balance of the more than 2,500 delegates will vote by proxy.
Democrats will hold an almost entirely virtual convention Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee using live broadcasts and online streaming, according to party officials. Joe Biden plans to accept the presidential nomination in person, but it remains to be seen whether there will be a significant in-person audience.
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Trump’s announcement.