Donald Trump wanted to be nominated for a second term as president during a lavish, jam-packed, maskless celebration of himself.
An event, in other words, like the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.
He wanted it so badly that he moved the 2020 convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville in order to get “full attendance in the Arena” after North Carolina’s governor ordered masks and social distancing.
His action cost the GOP plenty, both in dollars and headaches.
But Trump still won’t get his fantasy, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He may even see masks on the faces of many at the convention, thanks to Jacksonville’s Republican mayor, Lenny Curry, who issued a mandatory mask requirement for public and indoor spaces last week.
The coronavirus is such a threat — particularly lately, particularly in Florida — that at least five prominent Republican Senators won’t even attend: Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Lisa Murkowsky of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.
“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” Grassley told the Des Moines Register and others, according to NPR.
Even Trump now seems resigned to something less than the kind of full-fledged media magnet Americans are used to seeing on television every four years.
“Look, we’re very flexible. We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible,” the president told Gray TV host Greta Van Susteren, reports the Miami Herald, citing a transcript of the interview.
TV coverage of both the Republican and Democratic National conventions will be scaled way back, compared with previous years. No anchors holding court in skyboxes, no flocks of reporters and camera crews edging their way through the crowd.
Only the 24-hour cable networks are planning anything like wall-to-wall coverage, and even that will be sharply reduced inside the hall.
“This is not going to be the full army deployment, but it’s going to be the special ops,” Bret Baier of Fox News told the New York Times this week. “A smaller team, but we’ll still get the job done.”
All the networks will use the same camera view of the convention stage, and will rely more on pool reporters to limit the number of journalists covering the event directly.
“There will be less coverage of the nooks and crannies,” CBS News anchor John Dickerson said in a Times interview.
As a result, says Politico, private companies will be spending far less to have a presence at either party’s convention.
“If you’re a company, a law firm or a lobby shop,” Politico asks, “why would you ever consider putting any money behind a political convention this year?”
“Would you want your executives anywhere close to a gathering that has a chance to be a super-spreading event? Would you throw a party?”
“You’d have to be nuts.”
It should be noted that all this will affect the GOP convention Aug. 24-27 in Jacksonville much more than the Democratic gathering in Milwaukee one week earlier, because the Democrats have already scaled back their plans.
Fox’s Baier called the Dems’ approach “closer to what’s possible.”
And farther away from the president’s fantasy.