The political parties’ parties haven’t gone as planned.
The Democratic and Republican National Conventions were supposed to take place with all the pomp, circumstance and spectacle for which these massive events are famous. But this is 2020, and COVID-19 has rudely tossed “supposed to” out the door.
“COVID-19 will have a vote and will likely dictate what each convention looks like,” says FOX News election co-anchor Bret Baier. “I think both conventions will look a lot different, but traditionally they are the time that launches both campaigns. They are covered on TV and give each candidate a lot of eyeballs to start the race. We will have a smaller footprint, but we will be there and so will the big issues facing our country.”
The scaled-back DNC will now take place Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee and include virtual events and smaller gatherings in different cities. Delegates won’t make the trip and will instead remotely cast their votes. Joe Biden is still expected to accept the nomination in Milwaukee, but it will look and feel far different from anything in the past.
“Like so much of life these days, it will be mostly a Zoom show,” says Martha MacCallum, Baier’s co-anchor on the FOX News election desk. “Trying to generate that same punch online and with social distancing among those who are there will likely deflate some of the air from the balloons that are always the big finish.”
“A more digital presentation may be filled with more well-produced videos and more people weighing in from around the country via video,” Baier says. “Expect things to look a lot different, and the challenge will be for the organizers to still create excitement in the presentation.”
The RNC will conduct its official business Aug. 24 in Charlotte, N.C., but plans for holding the traditional rallies and celebrations in Jacksonville, Fla., have been canceled. Details on Donald Trump’s speech accepting his party’s nomination for reelection had not been officially announced.
Covering these conventions poses new challenges for CNN, FOX News Channel and MSNBC. The Wall Street Journal reported that the major news networks were in discussions to share resources and reduce the overall number of journalists, staff and crew attending the events in person.
The success or failure of the 2020 conventions could also force the parties to reevaluate how much money and resources to put toward future gatherings. “For years the discussion has been that conventions merely ratify a foregone conclusion and are perhaps not necessary,” MacCallum says. “This summer we will find out.”
“Expect things to look a lot different and the challenge will be for the organizers to still create excitement in the presentation,” Baier says. “There are big issues that we’re facing as a country. Those issues will be front and center at both conventions — no matter what they look like.”