‘A Play for the Base’: Why Republicans Are Ready for the Florida Convention Amid a Pandemic | 2020 US elections


meFor four years, Democrats and Republicans host their national conventions, major prime-time events in which presidential nominations are formally awarded amid balloon waterfalls, in front of cheering crowds.

On August 20, just over two months before Election Day, Joe Biden will duly accept the Democratic nomination in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A week later, Donald Trump will be crowned by Republicans in Jacksonville, Florida.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, almost everything else will not continue as usual. But the two sides will follow radically different paths.

This week, when the death toll in the United States surpassed 124,000 and cases increased in many states, Democrats announced a reduced convention, primarily online and with physical events organized under the guidance of public health experts. Biden’s speech, for example, has moved to a smaller place.

Republicans have also made big changes, but for a different reason. Despite the pandemic in the United States, they try not to sacrifice the show in the name of public safety.

The Republican convention was established for Charlotte, North Carolina. But Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor, would not allow what is actually a large campaign rally (crowds packed in a sports arena) in the shadow of Covid-19.

As a result, the party’s businesses will be conducted in Charlotte with public health restrictions, but Jacksonville will now host events made for television that are not subject to mandatory social distance, wearing of masks, or other measures.

In Wisconsin, Democrats are working with Tony Evers, a governor from his own party who has tried to prioritize fighting the virus. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis is a prominent Trump supporter who has championed the economic reopening.

Tara Setmayer, a Republican operator and critic of Trump, told The Guardian: “The simple version of why many people will be brought to Jacksonville in the midst of a pandemic is that this Republican must appear committed to the reopening and not to demand action. of security.

“Everything the Republican Party is doing now is a move for the base. There is no other logical explanation because the Democrats have made enough sense to make the proper adjustments and virtualize, to adhere to the government’s own standards for social distancing and the like.

“There is a lot to logistically involve to control a national convention. It costs tens of millions of dollars. You bring in multiple police agencies to coordinate. It is a Herculean effort.

“So Democrats understood that it is not worth risking the health and exposure of all these people and the logistical nightmare you would create. While Donald Trump and the Republican Party seem not to care about the health and safety of the people involved. And that’s incredibly self-centered and politically greedy. “

But it may be politically necessary for Trump. Announcing the decision to go to Jacksonville, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel cited the economic benefit to the city, but also pointed to the harsh political realities that govern any convention location choice.

Florida, McDaniel said, “is crucial on the road to victory in 2020.”

‘Florida is a must win’

Four months after the election, the University of Virginia Policy Center rates four states as a jolt between Biden and Trump: Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Trump won them all in 2016 and in all likelihood he will have to do it again. A lot can change, but according to the UVA count, excluding the shots, Biden has 268 likely electoral college votes to 204 for Trump. A candidate needs 270 to win.

“Florida is a must-win, but so is North Carolina,” said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Policy Center. “Don’t lose either, and Trump has probably lost the election.”

Donald and Melania Trump celebrate at the Republican National Convention with Mike and Karen Pence in Cleveland, Ohio on July 21, 2016. Photograph: Mike Segar / Reuters

Democrats’ choice of venue is governed by similar political concerns, but their outlook now seems much brighter.

“Wisconsin seemed like the pivotal state,” said Sabato. “There is always one. If he goes one way, Trump wins, if he goes the other direction, then Biden wins. That’s why Democrats put it in Wisconsin. It was one of the big shocks of 2016. They thought they could take Michigan back without holding a convention there and I think they were right, and the same with Pennsylvania.

“Wisconsin was the difficult one, they thought.”

It turns out that as June becomes the July election averages, Biden advances nationally and in most battlefield states. Realclearpolitics.com, for example, has increased from 49% to 41% in Wisconsin and from 50% to 44% in Florida. North Carolina is closer, Trump is crawling over a point. But where it offers 15 electoral votes, Florida has 29.

In the Trump camp, a poll may be of particular concern. A survey of Jacksonville residents conducted by the University of North Florida found that “58% strongly opposed or opposed” the Republican convention and 71% were “very or somewhat concerned … about the Covid broadcast- 19 “.

Such concern may affect participation. Last weekend, Trump returned to the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city and state badly affected by Covid-19. The rally drew a small crowd, and the employees tested positive.

The Florida survey also found that 61% of respondents were concerned about protests and social unrest. Amid national protests over police brutality and structural racism, Trump’s speech in Jacksonville on August 27 will be held on Ax Handle’s 60th anniversary on Saturday, 1960, when a white mafia attacked rights activists. civilians in Florida city.

Setmayer and other observers point to the insensitivity of such synchronization. However, Dr. Michael Binder of the University of North Florida noted that the conventions are, by their very nature, “polarizing events” and said that “in the context of a global pandemic that seems to have come most fervently to Florida, Opposition to this event is organized locally seems much more worrisome. “

The two would-be presidents aren’t the only people who will monitor the polls until August. Sabato said polls in North Carolina showed his support for Cooper in his confrontation with Trump. Setmayer signaled a drop in support for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry as Republicans announced they would come to town. DeSantis is widely said to be considering a presidential career in four years.

‘A full arena’

Last month, Politician reported on how Trump attended the George HW Bush nomination in New Orleans in 1988, saw how Republicans worshiped him as, as Sabato put it, “a hero of history,” and told his friends : “This is what I want”.

In Jacksonville, he will demand such a show. McDaniel, the party’s president, promised “a packed arena” and all the decorations: balloons falling from the ceiling, bands, chants of the candidate’s name and the familiar mantra: “Four more years!”

As public health officials continue to warn against large gatherings, particularly indoors, McDaniel has also promised to “make sure convention goers are safe.”

But the numbers of cases continue to increase in Florida. On Friday, DeSantis announced a record number of daily cases and finally ordered a pause at the reopening. It is difficult to see that the situation improves much in August.

“I really don’t see the long-term advantage for Donald Trump,” Setmayer said. “He will personally get his flattery solution, but that will be all.”

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