RNC Pours Millions Into Convention Plans. Will It Go Ahead?

Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, Sam Stein
Saul Loeb/Getty

Even as Republicans contemplate the prospect of scaling back their presidential nominating convention this summer, the national party is pouring millions into the group charged with financing and organizing the event, financial records show.

The Republican National Committee transferred a whopping $6.4 million to its convention committee in April, according to records released on Wednesday. That was more than 10 times the sum that the Democratic National Committee transferred to theirs last month. It also represented the biggest month of RNC funding for its convention committee so far this cycle, and more than a three-fold increase over the prior month. The DNC’s convention transfer in April, meanwhile, was $634,000. In March, the committee had steered more than $1 million there.

Both convention committees spent roughly the same amount in April—Republicans $835,000 and Democrats $860,000—but the outsized sums steered by the RNC into its convention account indicate a far larger down payment on future expenses associated with putting on the party’s biggest event of the cycle.

The money disparity is the latest illustration of the different mindsets the parties are taking about the conventions being planned for later this summer. Democrats already have moved their convention back from July to August to adjust for the spread of coronavirus. And several sources tell The Daily Beast that the planning committee has canceled contracts with vendors in anticipation that they may not have the same transportation, food, and entertainment demands even at that latter date. 

Delegates have continued to express concern about the prospect of even a scaled-down gathering in Milwaukee. And presumptive nominee Joe Biden has been open about contemplating the possibility that an in-person convention may not even happen at all. 

COVID-19 Has the Democratic Convention in Milwaukee on the Ropes

Republicans have been less overtly cautious. RNC chair Ronna McDaniel left open the possibility of a pared-back convention during a phone call with reporters this week, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

But the RNC pointed to the numbers in this week’s FEC reports as evidence of its opponents’ uneasiness. “The money speaks to the massive enthusiasm gap that exists between President Trump and Joe Biden,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement. “There is such little enthusiasm for Biden’s nomination that the DNC has barely been able to raise any money and had to lay off its convention staff.”

President Donald Trump has been adamant that the 2020 Republican National Convention—or some version of it—go on. For months, he’s demanded that back-up options for less crowded gatherings be fully explored by his staff, if a full-blown convention isn’t ultimately possible or safe, according to three people familiar with his private insistence. But he has scoffed at the notion of a virtual convention in recent weeks, saying that it sounds like “something Joe Biden would do from his basement,” said a source who heard Trump mock the idea.

Trump’s desire to have some sort of coronation moment fits his love of pageantry and spectacle. But various staffers working on plotting the Republican gathering aren’t quite so optimistic that it’s doable, knowing that they are entirely at the mercy of the virus and that the convention may end up even sparser than some expect.

“I don’t want to be the one to tell the president,” the White House official said, envisioning a scenario in which a disappointed, possibly angry Trump is informed he would have to be livestreamed into his own convention.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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