Coronavirus: Democrats postpone convention to nominate candidate to take on Trump

Party moves nominations to August as Biden and Sanders campaign during pandemic

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 02 April 2020 13:07 BST
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders greet with the coronavirus ‘handshake’ (Re
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders greet with the coronavirus ‘handshake’ (Re (Reuters)

Democrats will wait until August to officially determine the party's nominee in the presidential election this fall.

The Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee has been postponed from mid-July to mid-August, after former vice president Joe Biden suggested party officials should move the event amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the party said: "In light of the unprecedented health crisis facing our country, the 2020 Democratic National Convention will now be held the week of August 17 in Milwaukee, providing our team more time to determine the most appropriate structure for this historic event."

The Democratic National Committee's event, initially scheduled from 13-17 July, will congregate party delegates to select the party's nominee — with the candidates whittled down to the former vice president and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders — to face Donald Trump in November's general election.

Mr Biden told The Tonight Show on 1 April that he doubts "whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July or early July. I think it's going to have to move into August."

He added: "We were able to ... in the middle of a Civil War all the way through to World War II have Democratic and Republican conventions and primaries and elections and still have public safety. And we're able to do both. But the fact is it may have to be different."

The move follows a contentious primary election season immersed in the Covid-19 pandemic, with several states postponing elections or moving to mail-in only to prevent voters from spreading the disease.

Days before cities and states across the US were preparing stay-at-home measures, primary elections were held in Arizona, Florida and Illinois on 17 March, the last round of primary voting, which preceded two weeks of sweeping measures to keep people away from crowds and in their homes.

Ohio voters were also set to head to the polls on 17 March, but the state has joined 15 other states and territories that have moved their elections to later this spring, though their fates are unclear as the federal government extends its "stay-at-home" guidelines and states expand similar orders through the end of April, at least.

Mr Biden has gained the lead in the race with 1,17 pledged delegates, followed by Senator Sanders with 914 delegates.

Both campaigns have largely shifted their messaging to the coronavirus response as they field interviews and virtual town halls from their respective headquarters.

Senator Sanders has hosted frequent virtual town halls to discuss the crisis and has pointed to the outbreak and its impact to underline calls for stronger social safety nets, including universal healthcare coverage.

In a statement, the DNC said: "Ensuring the safety of the convention's host community and all convention-goers has been — and always will remain — the top priority of the Democratic National Convention Committee. As we continue to monitor the unpredictable and unprecedented public health emergency, we remain in constant communication with the local, state, and federal officials responsible for protecting public health and security, and will continue to follow their guidance."

DNC chair Tom Perez said that "the city of Milwaukee has been an incredible partner, especially over the past few weeks as we've confronted this global crisis, and we couldn't be more committed to highlighting Wisconsin as a key battleground state, as it is at the centre of so many of Trump's broken promises."

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