Florida’s top political minds think President Donald Trump and the Republican Party will go through with their Jacksonville conventions plans amid a worsening pandemic. But that doesn’t mean they think it’s a good idea.
In a survey of 220 of Florida campaign operatives, political party leaders, organizers, fundraisers, elected leaders, political scientists and other Insiders, 72 percent agreed that holding the Republican National Convention in Florida is a public health risk.
“I do think the Republican Party will be hell bent on this convention and it will happen,” one GOP consultant said. “The questions is ‘Will it be like Tulsa?' Only time will tell. As of now, you couldn’t pay me to attend that convention. Too much risk for silly hats and bourbon.”
One Democrat suggested that Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry have a lot to gain if the convention is a success, but also quite a bit to lose “if virus numbers spike in Jacksonville afterward.” But like 93 percent of respondents, he thinks the quadrennial confab is going to commence.
Another Democrat said his party is “scared silly about COVID-19″ when it’s mostly affecting young people right now. Indeed, the average age of those testing positive has fallen substantially since the early days of the virus, though public health experts worry hospitalizations and deaths will follow in the coming weeks.
He added protesters have had rallies without the backlash Republicans have faced.
“No one calls them out,” he said.
Curry this week moved to require people to wear masks indoors in hopes of mitigating the spread ahead of the convention. That’s a prudent move, according to the Insiders. An overwhelming majority, including two-thirds of the Republican respondents, said masks should be required in restaurants, bars, stores and other indoor public places.
One Democrat put it this way: “We shouldn’t have to mandate masks, but too many people are morons who apparently don’t care if they accidentally kill others.”
A Republican warned that requiring masks in public “would be nearly impossible to enforce,” but he added, “It is insanity that even the wearing of masks for the safety of the public has become politicized in our nation, when it’s proven to be one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of this virus. Our country is broken in many ways.”
After Trump’s Tulsa rally underwhelmed and drew criticism from public health experts, his campaign has reportedly pulled back from plans to hold future rallies. Seven in 10 of the Insiders said he should put them on ice for a while.
“Trump misread the twitters on arenas. Republicans do wear masks and social distancing despite media narratives, and no one is rushing to get in a crowd for the night,” the Republican said. “Better to hold a small event and leverage Zoom. He needs an in-person audience, but needs a tactically different approach.”
Or, as one Republican wrote in all caps: “Anyone who is organizing or endorsing large-scale gatherings is an idiot. Full stop.”
Trump’s November foe, former Vice President Joe Biden, has not held an in-person rally since the outbreak began. In fact, he has been relatively quiet overall. Until Tuesday, it had been weeks since Biden faced reporters and the Democratic nominee is quieter than even some from his own party are comfortable with.
Overall, two-thirds of Florida Insiders said Biden’s campaign should be more active, including 56 percent of the Democrats polled.
“Biden needs to get active and make the case he is a viable alternative,” a Democrat wrote. “Otherwise Trump’s ‘he’s not fit to do the job’ message will take over.”
But others made a compelling case for keeping a lower profile. They pointed to polls that show Biden leading Trump, including in Florida and many other swing states. Why change what isn’t broke, one non-partisan participant wrote.
“Biden needs to do what he’s doing — which is to say, virtually nothing — and let Trump continue to alienate 70% of the electorate,” the Insider said. “Never interrupt your opponent in the middle of a mistake.”
Of those who responded to this month’s poll, 100 were Republicans, 99 were Democrats and 21 were people who said they are registered no party affiliation or with another party. They included:
Erin Aebel, Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Fernand Amandi, Fernand Amandi, Gayle Andrews, Peter Antonacci, Scott Arceneaux, Donna Arduin, Donna Arduin, Dave Aronberg, Brad Ashwell, Brad Ashwell, Brad Ashwell, Jon M. Ausman, Roger Austin, Ryan Banfill, Christina Barker, Scott Barnhart, Rodney Barreto, Patrick Baskette, Ashley Bauman, Geoffrey Becker, Allan Bense, Wayne Bertsch, Taylor Biehl, Ron Bilbao, Barney Bishop III, Greg Blair, Katie Bohnett, Paul Bradshaw, Bob Buckhorn, Alex Burgos, Dominic M. Calabro, Kristy Campbell, Dean Cannon, Tim Canova, Chip Case, Gabriela Castillo, Kevin Cate, Mitch Ceasar, Johanna Cervone, Jean Clements , Brad Coker, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley, Husein Cumber, Carlos Curbelo, Justin Day, Ingrid Delgado, Richard DeNapoli, Pablo Diaz, Victor DiMaio, Tony DiMatteo, Doc Dockery, Paula Dockery, John Dowless, Bob Doyle, Peter Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Mike Fasano, Peter Feaman, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Mark Foley, Kirk Fordham, Pamela Burch Fort, Brian Franklin, Towson Fraser, Keith Frederick, Ellen Freidin, John French, Jack Furnari, Wayne Garcia, Stephen Gaskill, Steve Geller, Richard Gentry, Julia Gill Woodward, Brian Goff, Alma Gonzalez, Ron Greenstein, Thomas Grigsby, Joe Gruters, Ralph Haben, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Chris Hand, Mike Hanna, Abel Harding, James Harris, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Cynthia Henderson, Laura Hernandez, Don Hinkle, Jim Horne, Yolanda Jackson, Jeff Johnson, Eric Johnson, David Johnson, Christina Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Fred Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Henry Kelley, Chris Kise, John Konkus, Chris Korge, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Zach Learner, Jackie Lee, Bill Lee, Matt Lettelleir, Alan Levine, Jack Levine, McKinley Lewis, Beth Leytham, Shannon Love, Javier Manjarres, William March, Beth Matuga, Brian May, Stephanie McClung, Kim McDougal, Nancy McGowan, Clarence McKee, Kathy Mears, David Mica, Jamie Miller, Jon Mills, Paul Mitchell, Travis Moore, Lucy Morgan, John Morgan, Meredith O’Rourke, Stephanie Owens, Maurizio Passariello, Alex Patton, Darryl Paulson, Jorge Pedraza, Scott Peelen, Juan Penalosa, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Joe Perry, Sean Phillippi, Ron Pierce, Van Poole, Van Poole, David Ramba, Ryan Ray, Nan Rich, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Franco Ripple, Terrie Rizzo, Monica Rodriguez, Jason Rosenberg, Sarah Rumpf, Ron Sachs, Steve Schale, Tom Scherberger, Jack Seiler, Kathleen Shanahan, Stephen Shiver, Bud Shorstein, Kyle Simon, Alex Sink, Patrick Slevin, Stephanie Smith, Daniel Smith, Adam Smith, Susan Smith, Eleanor Sobel, John Stemberger, Alan Stonecipher, Nancy Texeira, Cory Tilley, Frank Tsamoutales, Ryan Tyson, Christian Ulvert, Jason Unger, Karen Unger, Ashley Walker, Robert Watkins, Nancy Watkins, Screven Watson, Jonathan Webber, Andrew Weinstein, Susie Wiles, Marley Wilkes, Mike Williams, Gregory Wilson, Jamie Wilson, Rick Wilson, Leslie Wimes, Jon Woodard , Zachariah Zachariah, Christian Ziegler and Mark Zubaly.