Biden to Skip Democratic Convention in Milwaukee as Virus Cases Rise

In Wisconsin, a notable decline in coronavirus cases in late spring gave way to a consistent rise starting near the end of June.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., on July 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

MILWAUKEE (CN) — Citing the worsening pandemic, Democrats announced Wednesday that their 2020 national convention will be almost entirely virtual, with speakers including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden appearing via video rather than traveling to Milwaukee as originally planned.

Scheduled to begin Aug. 17 and set to last four days, the Democratic National Convention “will look different than any previous convention in history,” said convention CEO Joe Solmonese.

“It will reach more people than ever before, and truly be a convention across America for all Americans,” Solmonese said in a press release announcing the change.

Rather than a traditional arena-filling convention, the 2020 DNC will involve hundreds of video feeds going through a custom-made virtual video control room, according to the party. Alongside traditional television and radio broadcasts, the release said, the convention will be streamed on over a dozen platforms. Chief among those will be the convention’s website. The other platforms were not specified.  

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first. We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives. That’s the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves. And that’s the leadership Joe Biden will bring to the White House,” Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said.

The decision comes in the wake of a rise in Covid-19 cases in northern states, which have been slower to reach the high case levels seen in many states south of the Mason-Dixon line. Wisconsin has experienced such a spike, with a notable decline in cases in late May and early June giving way to a consistent rise starting near the end of June. New cases have tapered off slightly in the last two weeks, but remain high, with a seven-day average of 839 new cases as of Tuesday.

The decision to hold a convention in Wisconsin has been widely discussed as a strategic move by the Democratic Party after the state broke a 22-year run of voting for Democratic presidential candidates in 2016, favoring President Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a razor-thin margin of 0.77%.  

The convention is set to be a battleground between the party’s progressive wing and Biden’s centrist establishment, particularly over the decision not to put a universal health care plan on the party’s proposed platform. The platform is set to be adopted at the convention, but hundreds of delegates, mostly supporters of Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have signed a petition to vote against it if it does not include Medicare for All.

The Republican National Convention, originally planned for Charlotte, N.C., has been reduced to a collection of smaller meetings in that city from Aug. 24-27 after planners moved in-person events to Jacksonville, Fla., then canceled them.

How much access the public will have to those meetings, and through what means, is still unclear. CNN reported Sunday that the RNC will be closed to the press, but that there will be a livestream of Trump’s presumptive nomination as the party’s presidential candidate.

Trump is also not expected to be present in North Carolina for his party’s convention. The president said Wednesday that he may deliver his acceptance speech from the White House.

“We are thinking about doing it from the White House because there’s no movement. It’s easy, and I think it’s a beautiful setting and we are thinking about that. It’s certainly one of the alternatives,” Trump said during a “Fox and Friends” interview.

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