The Democrats’ presidential nominating convention has been delayed until mid-August after prospective nominee Joe Biden said he did not think it would be possible to hold a normal convention in mid-July because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Convention CEO Joe Solmonese confirmed the decision to move the event to the week of August 17 in a statement on 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,” Mr Solmonese said.
On Wednesday, Mr Biden 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,” Mr Biden said. “You just have to be prepared for the alternative, and the alternative — we don’t know what it’s going to be.”
Those comments are the furthest Mr Biden had gone in predicting a delay for the convention, which would mark the start of the general election campaign.
The coronavirus pandemic is forcing Democrats and Republicans to take a close look at whether they will be able to move forward as planned with their summer conventions. Republicans plan to gather from August 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Republicans have expressed confidence they can pull off their convention as scheduled, but party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel still allows for the possibility that the pandemic could upend 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 obviously missed that part of his routine amid the coronavirus outbreak, reluctantly turning 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 Mr 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.
Democratic National Committee authorities based in Milwaukee are exploring various options should social distancing recommendations still be in effect in the summer months.
Convention CEO Joe Solmonese has not 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”.