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The Pandemic Is Changing How The National Conventions Will Be Held


So political conventions are known for their spectacle, right? - tens of thousands of delegates and supporters packed into an arena, banners, big hats, rousing speeches every night. The Democratic and Republican national conventions will still happen later this month. But it's becoming more and more clear that they're are going to look nothing like they have in the past.

And let's turn to NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who is with us. Hi, Tam.


GREENE: So it looks like a convention officially is going to happen in Milwaukee for the Democrats, but even Joe Biden is not going to be going.

KEITH: That's right. Initially, there had been some thought that even - that Biden would even go to this scaled back convention in Milwaukee, but now he's not doing that at the recommendation of health officials. He will be joining from his home state of Delaware. His running mate won't go either. Already, members of Congress had been told not to go, most delegates. It was already going to be super scaled back and largely virtual. This just sort of puts the cherry on top of that. It's going to be a virtual convention. It's what they had been planning for. But now even the candidate won't be there.

GREENE: What about the Republicans? I mean, President Trump had been talking at one point not so long ago about actually having almost a real convention, right?

KEITH: That had been what he wanted. He even moved the convention out of Charlotte, N.C., to Florida so that he could have that big event in an arena or an outdoor venue with no masks, no social distancing. They were going to have coronavirus tests for everybody. Well, that's off. And now there's going to be a small gathering in Charlotte. But President Trump won't be there. And he suggested he might give his acceptance speech from the White House.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it would be a very convenient location. It would be by far the least expensive location. There'd be very little in terms of that tremendous traveling security with airplanes and everybody flying all over the place.

KEITH: This would totally bust norms and take down any remaining separation between the official and the political at the people's house. And there's already been some pushback. Senator John Thune, a Republican, asked whether it was legal and and said, quote, "I think anything you do on federal property would seem to be problematic."

GREENE: So what are we missing? What are the campaigns more importantly going to be missing if they're not able to hold these big events?

KEITH: You know, conventions are typically big, made-for-TV celebrations with the party faithful, as you say, decked out in buttons and hats and waving signs. That won't happen. But these are also times for these loyalists to get together, to get energized, to get that boost coming out of the convention, to go out and volunteer or give hundreds of thousands of dollars for the big donors. And that won't exist in the same way. They're going to try to replicate some of the feel through these virtual conventions. But, you know, I'm imagining this being sort of like the difference between the State of the Union with all of its majesty and all of those people in the Capitol and the response to the State of the Union, which is usually some poor sap alone with a microphone. And it just doesn't have the same feel.

GREENE: Yeah. It's going to be a very different election to cover. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith for us this morning. Tam, thanks so much as always.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.