Democratic strategist: Coronavirus may require scrapping political conventions

WASHINGTON — The race for the White House against the backdrop of the coronavirus will scramble this summer’s political conventions, requiring the political parties to scrap their planned gatherings and replace them with “virtual” online events, veteran political strategist Joe Trippi predicted on the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast on Wednesday.

“Both parties have to prepare for some kind of virtual convention ... where delegates can vote by phone securely,” said Trippi, who pioneered an internet-driven campaign strategy when he was campaign manager for upstart Democratic candidate Howard Dean in 2004.

Calling the conventions “produced television shows for the party,” Trippi said the Republican and Democratic national committees will likely treat conventions as one night of a produced television show followed by a second night during which candidates give speeches and announce vice presidential picks. 

[See also: "Coronavirus forces presidential candidates to try 'virtual' campaigning"] 

Trippi, author of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything,” said that if delegates need to vote on the party platform or undertake a rules debate, it would likely “happen virtually, on a conference call ... unless this changes quickly, and I don’t think its gonna change quickly enough.”

He further predicted that an old-fashioned, front-porch campaign could lead to new innovations in how candidates run for president.

“It will be a historic difference,” he said. “Tele-town halls, where the campaigns will invite thousands of people to call in to a number and hear the candidate speak, instead of rallies.”

A DNC spokesperson said the party continues to plan on holding its convention in Milwaukee, pointing to a statement saying the party would “continue to monitor this fluid situation” but remains focused on “planning a safe and successful convention in Milwaukee four months from now.”

The Daily Beast reported yesterday that Democratic officials, including two state party chairs, are frustrated and confused by the lack of information from headquarters, which they said has not provided an update for weeks.

A media walkthrough for the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Reuters/Jim Bourg)

The GOP convention responded similarly: “We prioritize the health and safety of delegates, media, guests, community members and staff, and we have full faith and confidence in the administration’s aggressive actions to address COVID-19. As we move forward with planning, we remain in communication with local, state and federal officials and we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with all stakeholders and health authorities to ensure every necessary precaution is taken into account.”

In his "Skullduggery" interview, Trippi also addressed the ongoing Democratic primary, in which former Vice President Joe Biden added more delegates during Tuesday's elections, putting Sen. Bernie Sanders at a daunting disadvantage.

“Certainly last night should have ended any hope Bernie Sanders has or any reason that he could legitimately want to continue on,” Trippi said of the elections, which handed Biden victories in Florida, Illinois and Arizona.

“The current environment plays completely to Biden,” he added. “Where was Biden in the last financial crisis that we faced? Oh yeah, vice president for Barack Obama. ... Who was there with Ebola? Oh, Vice President Biden.”

Download or subscribe on iTunes: “Skullduggery” from Yahoo News 


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