How The Coronavirus Will Change U.S. Political Conventions

by mcardinal

Madeline Sponsler, FISM News

The U.S. political convention, a presidential campaign ritual dating to the 1830s, is being reinvented on the fly after being short-circuited by the coronavirus pandemic – much like much of the world as we now know it.

Here is a look at how the Democratic and Republican conventions will be different this year.


There will be no roaring crowds of delegates in a cavernous hall, no balloon drops, or wall-to-wall parties. Both Democrats and Republicans will offer mostly virtual programs featuring speeches and events from around the country.

Nevertheless, the Democratic National Convention this Monday through Thursday could give presumptive nominee Joe Biden his first big, attentive audience in months, said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University.

Though Biden leads Republican President Donald Trump in opinion polls, the Democratic former vice president has been largely kept off the campaign trail by the pandemic. Trump, meanwhile, has continued to command heavy media attention with his White House briefings and campaign events.

That puts increased significance on Biden’s televised acceptance speech, the traditional starter’s gun for the final sprint to the Nov. 3 election. For Trump, his speech could be a chance to move beyond the debate about his handling of the pandemic and allow him to present his broad vision for a second term, said Ford O’Connell, a former Florida Republican congressional candidate who consults with the Trump campaign.

“The campaign believes if they can get past that hurdle, it’s easier to make your other points,” he said. “This is the place for Trump to make his case about where he wants to take the country.”

The prime-time speeches will be more intimate. Biden will speak from his home state of Delaware, not Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the host city for a mostly virtual convention. Trump, who will be renominated at a small Republican convention on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina, is expected to deliver his speech later that week from the White House.


Also, he reimagined the format of the back-to-back conventions will force the parties to try to find a more compelling way to get their messages across. Speeches by party stalwarts and rising stars will be delivered remotely from around the country. Democrats have designed a virtual video control room to take in hundreds of feeds, with the potential to interact with Americans nationwide.

“They aren’t confined to one stage or one place, so they will be forced to innovate,” said Kelly Dietrich, a Democratic strategist who has been running training programs on virtual campaigning for political candidates and staff.

The challenge will be to generate excitement and motivate the party faithful while encouraging independents and infrequent voters to take a look.

One plus for party unity: The virtual nature of the conventions will minimize the chance for signs of discord and unscripted moments.




Sourced from Reuters, edited for brevity