Donald Trump has been forced to cancel the Republican Party’s national convention in Jacksonville, Florida due to the state’s coronavirus outbreak.
“I told my team it’s time to cancel the Jacksonville, Florida component of the GOP convention,” Mr Trump told reporters at today’s White House coronavirus briefing.
“This afternoon my political team came to me and laid out our plans for the convention in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a place I love. I love that state. The drawings look absolutely beautiful, I never thought we could have something that could look so good so fast, with everything going on.
“Everything was going well. A tremendous list of speakers. Thousands of people wanting to be there, in some cases desperately be there.
“The timing is not right, just not right, with what happened recently with a flare up in Florida. I have to protect the American people and that’s something I will always do, and that’s what I’m about.”
The convention is a critical political event, as it is where the Republican Party will formally renominate Mr Trump as its presidential nominee for the election in November.
It will still go ahead in some iteration, with most components likely happening digitally.
“I’ll still do a convention speech in a different form, but we won’t do a big crowded convention per se, it’s just not the right time for that,” said Mr Trump.
It is unquestionably the right decision to cancel the Florida convention. The state has been recording more than 10,000 coronavirus cases per day, just recorded a record 173 deaths in 24 hours, and is one of America’s worst-hit hotspots.
But this is also, unquestionably, an embarrassing moment for the President.
The convention was originally supposed to happen next month in an entirely different state, North Carolina.
But back in June, Mr Trump made the Republican Party move it, because North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Rory Cooper was insisting that the event comply with coronavirus restrictions.
He said the convention was a potential “super spreader” event, and the epidemic was “very unlikely” to abate in time.
“We still want a safe RNC convention in Charlotte that follows the health guidelines,” Mr Cooper wrote in a letter to the party.
“The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity. We are happy to continue talking with you about what a scaled-down convention will look like, and we still await your proposed plan for that.”
Mr Trump did not like the idea of a “scaled-down” convention.
“(We) would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the world and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and jobs, for the state. Because of (Mr Cooper), we are now forced to seek another state to host the 2020 Republican National Convention,” he announced.
The President eventually settled on Florida, because its Republican Governor Ron DeSantis had no problem with a large event happening without restrictions. At the time, Mr DeSantis believed he had the virus under control and was moving to reopen Florida’s economy.
“We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” the Republican National Committee’s Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.
“Not only does Florida hold a special place in President Trump’s heart as his home state, but it is crucial in the path to victory in 2020. We look forward to bringing this great celebration and economic boon to the Sunshine State in just a few short months.”
That obviously didn’t work out too well.
Mr Trump’s political opponents have pounced on today’s announcement.
“Floridians will remember his reckless leadership in November,” said Terrie Rizzo, the Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party.
“I’m glad Donald Trump took his head out of the sand long enough to realise what a predictable, preventable disaster he was about to inflict on the city of Jacksonville.
“His ego-driven political stunt has wasted precious time and resources during a pandemic.”