vision 2020

Trump Puts the Fear of the Coronavirus Into Jacksonville

Photo: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The June 20 fiasco in Tulsa — where 6,200 people showed up for a much-ballyhooed Trump rally in a venue seating 19,000 — immediately made you wonder about the jam-packed conditions that were deemed so essential by Donald Trump that he moved his party’s national convention (or at least its big public moments, particularly his acceptance speech) from Charlotte to Jacksonville. After all, Trump killed many months of planning for a Charlotte convention because the Democratic governor of North Carolina wouldn’t guarantee him he’d be allowed to cram 20,000 cheering, sweating unmasked MAGA fans into Charlotte’s Spectrum Center in August when the coronavirus pandemic might still be raging.

The key idea behind the switch was that Jacksonville had a Republican mayor and Florida had a Republican governor, both anxious for the attention and money a convention would bring the city and state’s hard-pressed tourism industry. So those North Carolina ingrates would be punished while Republicans enjoyed the eager hospitality available in northeast Florida.

But there’s a problem a-brewing: The locals in Jacksonville aren’t necessarily any happier about the public health implications of hosting Trump’s big self-celebration than their counterparts in North Carolina. Florida Politics has the story:

A majority of Duval voters do not want the Republican National Convention in their city this Summer, according to a new poll.

The RABA Research poll commissioned by Republican Voters Against Trump found 49% of those surveyed did not support Jacksonville hosting President Donald Trump’s nomination speech in August. Only 39% said they supported it.

Further, 57% said they were concerned the convention would spur a new COVID-19 outbreak while only 43% said they weren’t worried.

Given more information about the convention including both pros — that it will fill hotels and boost the economy — and cons — that it will cost the city millions, risk new infections and potentially put first responders at COVID-19 risk — 39% said they supported the convention with 52% opposing it.

Yes, a hostile Never Trump group commissioned the poll, but it was conducted by a reputable pollster, and you don’t have to believe the precise findings to get the general drift: People in Jax are worried as much as they are thrilled to be Trump’s hosts at a time when the public health consequences of such an event are entirely unclear and definitely worrisome. That’s particularly true because Florida has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases:

The poll came during a drastic shift in coronavirus trends that saw new cases shattering old records almost daily, including in Jacksonville. Duval County added a record 264 cases Saturday.

The jitters in Jacksonville also don’t currently take into account the possibility that the Tulsa rally, sad as it was, may produce some coronavirus fallout, aside from the Trump campaign advance staffers who have already tested positive for COVID-19.

A clinching argument for cutting Jacksonville into the Trump 2020 festivities was the fact that Duval County is a swing jurisdiction in a must-win state (Trump’s narrow 2016 margin in Duval was very close to his statewide margin). It would be ironic if Trump lost this county by bringing his significantly unwelcome circus to town, infections in tow.

Trump Puts the Fear of the Coronavirus Into Jacksonville