Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis still has the welcome mat out for the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville next month. Trump’s press secretary on Wednesday said it is full steam ahead despite the spike in cases and hospitalizations, but at least five Republican senators have already begged off. (This seems quite reasonable given concern about a shortage of hospital beds; after all, no one wants to be on the gurney in the hallway awaiting bed space.)
Even if Republicans are not concerned about their own health or the health of those they might infect, elected officials and candidates might not want to participate at an event that spreads a pandemic in swing state — one with a high percentage of elderly (hence vulnerable) voters. It will be interesting to see how many Republican officials, donors and operatives decline to come to an event that could set off another hot spot.
Democrats have already lambasted DeSantis for his tepid response and his refusal to issue a statewide mask order. Moreover, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry “announced Tuesday that he and his family are in self-quarantine after he was exposed to the virus. Curry said he has tested negative but wants to be cautious,” according to the Associated Press.
Florida officials might consider what has happened in Texas. There, according to the Houston Chronicle, “Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Wednesday that the city has canceled the Texas Republican Party in-person convention in downtown Houston next week.” It is only a matter of time before Florida officials also try to uninvite Trump, who pulled the convention from North Carolina (wasting money raised for that event) because he could not get a spectacle with all the bells and whistles?
Trump’s next big event is this week at an airfield in New Hampshire. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu may greet him on arrival, but has no intention of putting himself at risk. “I’m not going to put myself in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people, if that’s your question specifically,” he told CNN. Why then would he allow his constituents to be exposed to something he plainly knows is a public health threat?
As with all things associated with Trump, Republicans go from cautious enthusiasm to nervous comments on background to hiding when the catastrophic results of Trump’s reckless behavior become clear. But is staying away from super-spreader events enough? At some point, Republican governors and mayors will need to take responsibility for allowing public health hazards in their states, many of which are in deep trouble because governors followed Trump’s reckless advice. Republicans need to decide whether it is worth lives to avoid offending a failing president.