WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Democratic National Committee is delaying its presidential nominating convention until the week of Aug. 17 after prospective nominee Joe Biden said he didn’t think it would be possible to hold it in mid-July because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Convention CEO Joe Solmonese confirmed the decision in a statement Thursday.
“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” Solmonese said.
Biden on Wednesday night told NBC late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon that he doubted “whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held” on its original July 13-16 schedule in Milwaukee.
“I think it’s going to have move into August,” Biden said.
Those comments were the furthest Biden had gone in predicting a delay for the convention, which marks the start of the general election campaign. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing Democrats and Republicans to take a close look at whether they’ll be able to move forward as planned with their summer conventions.
Republicans plan to gather Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are expressing confidence they can pull off their convention as scheduled, but party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel still allows for the possibility that the pandemic could upend GOP plans.
Neither Democratic nor Republican leaders want to sacrifice the boost that can result from an enthusiastic convention gathering. President Donald Trump thrives on big rallies and has turned the Rose Garden and the White House briefing room into substitutes. A traditional convention, with a nationally televised nomination acceptance speech, could be even more critical for Biden, who has been relegated recently to remote television interviews from his Delaware home, unable to draw the kind of spotlight that a sitting president commands.
Solmonese hasn’t publicly detailed any specifics, promising only that “we will balance protecting the health and well-being of convention attendees and our host city with our responsibility to deliver this historic and critical occasion.”
Democrats originally scheduled their convention ahead of the Summer Olympics. But the international games have been postponed until 2021, opening several weeks on the summer television calendar if they could logistically manage a delay. Tradition dictates that Democrats, as the party out of power, hold their convention first.
Biden holds a prohibitive delegate lead that makes him the prospective nominee, but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders remains in the race and insists he has a “narrow” path to the nomination. With many states pushing back their primaries, Sanders potentially could block Biden from accruing the required delegate majority until late June.
The bottom line, Biden said, is that “we should listen to the scientists” and that the 2020 election, from conventions to voting methods, “may have to be different.”
Republicans don’t face the internal party uncertainty, though they still must weigh the same public health scenarios.
McDaniel, the RNC chairwoman, said she thinks “we should be out of this” by the end of August. In an interview, she said Republicans already have raised the money necessary for the convention and have the staff hired and in place.
“We’re ready to go,” she said. “This isn’t something that’s going to stop us.”
Still, she added a caveat: “Obviously, science will dictate that.”
Other aspects of the presidential campaign, meanwhile, continue unabated by the pandemic.
America First Action PAC, a Republican super political action committee backing Trump’s reelection, announced a $10 million ad buy that will start in mid-April and continue throughout May in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The digital, television and direct mail investment is the PAC’s first spending against Biden, and it comes in key markets in the three states that provided Trump with his Electoral College margin in 2016.