As COVID cases spike in Florida, Trump now says he's 'flexible' on convention format in Jacksonville

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
·3 min read

With coronavirus cases exploding in Florida, President Trump said he is “flexible” about the need for a traditional indoor Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month.

The Republican National Committee had scrapped plans to hold the party’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., after Gov. Roy Cooper said he would only allow “a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings.”

In a television interview with former Fox anchor Greta Van Susteren, Trump suggested the format for the Aug. 24-27 event would depend on the severity of the outbreak in the Sunshine State.

“Well, we’re always looking at different things,” the president said on Tuesday. “When we signed in Jacksonville, we wanted to be in North Carolina. That almost worked out, but the governor didn’t want to have people use the arena, essentially. And so I said, ‘Too bad for North Carolina.’”

Trump said that when the RNC announced it was changing venues, Florida “looked good.”

“It’s spiking up a little bit,” he told Van Susteren. “And that’s going to go down. It really depends on the timing. Look, we’re very flexible. We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible.”

The interview ran on Gray Television, a network based in Atlanta, where Van Susteren is now chief political correspondent.

Trump’s comments suggested he was taking a more cautious approach to the pandemic, which has killed more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and infected over 3 million. Florida is among several states that have experienced significant increases in cases.

President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the East Room at the White House in Washington on July 7, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
President Trump speaks at the White House on Tuesday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Several prominent Republican lawmakers have already said they will not attend the convention, including Sens. Chuck Grassley, Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state has doubled in the past two weeks, going from 100,000 cases to 213,794. Over the weekend, the state set daily records with more than 10,000 new cases reported on both Saturday and Sunday.

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, was forced to roll back the state’s reopening plans, imposing restrictions that include limiting the capacity of indoor facilities to 50 percent.

On Tuesday, DeSantis refused to say whether he would lift the mandate for the convention, which would limit it to 7,500 people. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who lobbied for the city to host the event, announced Tuesday that he and his family are in self-quarantine after he was exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19.

In a separate interview with RealClearPolitics, Trump refuted recent reports that he does not want to be elected to a second term, as he continues to fall in polling behind former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“I want it with all my breath,” Trump said.

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