As coronavirus cases surge in Florida, skepticism is growing that Republican National Convention organizers will be able to pull off the grand party President Donald Trump promised for his renomination, Reuters reported.
Wealthy donors are reluctant to bankroll an event besieged by uncertainty and possible bad optics if large crowds are later linked to a rash of new infections, according to interviews with six Republican Party sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Organizers are considering moving the convention from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, to one of two nearby outdoor stadiums to address concerns about the rapid spread of the virus indoors, two of the sources who are familiar with the planning told Reuters.
Trump himself has been reaching out to top campaign officials in recent days to seek advice on whether they think the Aug. 24-27 convention can go forward as envisioned, according to two of the sources familiar with the calls.
“It’s like building a plane while trying to take off,” one official said of the planning scramble.
The questions around the convention come as Trump trails Democratic opponent Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election, in part due to voter dissatisfaction with the President’s handling of the pandemic.
The Democratic National Convention is being reimagined as a mostly virtual affair, though Biden is still expected to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to accept his party’s nomination.
In a conference call on Tuesday, Trump campaign officials pressed staff and volunteers about the state of convention planning, hoping for a realistic assessment of where things stood.
“There were not a lot of great answers,” said one official who was on the call. “My sense is there is a lot of soul-searching going on right now within the campaign about how to proceed.”
Trump’s disappointing rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which drew thousands fewer than the campaign predicted, looms large in the internal discussions, the official said. No one wants to promise something they can’t deliver, the source said.
A Tulsa health official on Wednesday said the June rally likely contributed to a rise in coronavirus cases there.
Florida’s virus count has soared in the weeks since it was chosen to host the convention after Trump scrapped long-laid plans to accept the party’s nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina.