Trump cancels in-person Republican convention in Jacksonville
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he will no longer hold a large, in-person Republican convention in Jacksonville, Florida, because of the coronavirus but will hold virtual events and still give an acceptance speech.
"I told my team it's time to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida, component of the G.O.P. Convention. We will be starting in North Carolina for the Monday, as has always been planned, we were never taking that off," Trump said at a press conference at the White House Thursday afternoon.
Trump said that it was "not the right time" for a big convention, adding that he had "to protect the American people."
"People making travel arrangements all the over the country, they wanted to be there," he said.
Trump’s plans for Jacksonville appeared to be in peril earlier this week when the city council president raised safety and health concerns and threatened to oppose a key funding bill for the convention.
Trump said he had spoken with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about his decision and said that he would still do a convention speech in a “different form,” not the arena event he had hoped for.
He said that DeSantis did not ask him to cancel the convention, but he decided to do it anyways for safety reasons and for the media backlash he thought he would receive.
"I don't want to be in that position,” Trump said.
Florida is one of the most critical battleground states to Trump's reelection. He narrowly won the state in 2016, earning 48.6 percent of the vote over Hillary Clinton's 47.4%.
A poll from Quinnipiac University released earlier Thursday showed Trump struggling with Florida voters as 51 percent of voters said they backed former Vice President Joe Biden compared to 38 percent that said they supported Trump. Fifty-eight percent of Florida voters also said they thought Biden would do a better job responding to the coronavirus compared to 38 percent for Trump.
Trump moved the convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville earlier this year after officials in North Carolina raised concerns about hosting such a large event amid a global pandemic. Many Republican officials and party leaders had said that they did not plan to attend the Jacksonville event due to the coronavirus.