The debacle that unfolded in Oklahoma, where dispersed crowds forced Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to cancel pre-demonstration appearances and started an unpleasant news cycle for Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, has increased the stakes. for the Jacksonville convention, where hundreds of Republican delegates, party leaders, and MAGA devotees will send Trump into battle against his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
Four officials involved in the planning said they feel additional pressure to make sure the president is satisfied with the convention’s format and participation, after witnessing his discontent with the partially empty arena in Tulsa.
Additionally, a recent surge in Florida Covid-19 cases threatens to complicate the onerous planning process organizers already face after moving most of the convention’s schedule, including Trump’s primetime rename speech, from Charlotte to Northeast Florida due to coronavirus restrictions at large social gatherings in North Carolina Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, recently saw its biggest one-day increase in coronavirus cases since the global pandemic began.
Trump’s aides and Republican officials are now paying special attention to conditions on the ground in Florida, including an increase in coronavirus cases across the state and the risk of new restrictions on public meetings in the coming weeks. They are evaluating more scenarios that could destroy existing plans and force change in the next two months, to avoid surprisingly low turnout or other embarrassing political consequences just after Democrats hold their convention with a much more cautious approach.
The sudden surge in confirmed cases has raised concerns among residents of Florida’s most populous city about organizing convention activities that could attract thousands of people from out of state. Seventy-one percent of Duval County voters said they are very or somewhat concerned about Covid-19 broadcasts occurring at the Republican convention, according to a survey by the University of California Public Opinion Research Laboratory. North Florida released Wednesday. Another 61 percent indicated they are concerned about protests during the event, while 66 percent agreed that the convention is likely to infuse the Jacksonville economy with significant cash.
Before the president demonstrated in Tulsa last weekend, local health officials warned residents that they are more vulnerable to health complications if they contract the new coronavirus to stay home. Meanwhile, campaign officials asked attendees of the rally to sign a disclaimer to avoid lawsuits against the shelter and Trump’s re-election operation if they get sick with the deadly virus.
A Republican official said Republican convention attendees may be asked to sign a similar disclaimer before arriving at the 15,000-person VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, although this person emphasized that nothing has yet been decided. and that planning is still at an early stage.
“There will be security precautions in place that will be adapted depending on the situation at the time of the event,” added a RNC spokesperson. “These include but are not limited to temperature controls, available PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], aggressive disinfection protocols, available Covid-19 tests, and regular phone calls and coordination with federal, state, and local health officials. ”
The convention is also likely to be treated as a National Special Security Event, resulting in a wide perimeter around the site and an outsized presence of local and federal law enforcement officials. Organizers expect protests outside the convention, particularly as anti-racism protests continue to plague the nation, but they do not anticipate that protesters will interfere with the event itself, a claim that Trump campaign officials made after the President’s visit to Oklahoma to explain the overwhelming size of the crowd.
“Regrettably, protesters interfered with supporters, even blocking access to metal detectors, preventing people from entering the demonstration,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement after the Tulsa demonstration. The campaign did not say how many people were rejected; Journalists on the ground disputed that protests at the entrances prevented rally attendees from finally entering.
A Trump campaign official expressed relief that the Republican National Committee, as well as a nonpartisan host committee in Jacksonville, is handling most of the logistics of the convention so that the president’s reelection team is “saved” If the event does not go as planned, or if it fails to satisfy Trump’s desire for a gigantic crowd of adoring fans.
After being asked for tickets by a million people for the Saturday night rally in Tulsa, only to be greeted by a crowd that the Tulsa Fire Department estimated at 6,200, Trump spent his flight back to Washington helping the attendees on the humiliating turn of events.