By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic Party on Thursday postponed its U.S. presidential nominating convention by a month until August, citing the coronavirus health crisis that has upended daily life and caused many states to postpone their primaries.
Democrats will use the convention in Milwaukee – now scheduled for the week of Aug. 17 – to formally pick their nominee to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November election. It had previously been scheduled for July.
The pandemic already has forced Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and rival Bernie Sanders off the campaign trail, and more than a dozen states have delayed their nominating contests due to worries about public health risks.
“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds,” said Joe Solmonese, chief executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee.
The convention will be held in Wisconsin, a state that Trump narrowly won in 2016 and which is seen as a key battleground state for the 2020 presidential contest.
Biden on Wednesday called for delaying the convention, speaking in a television interview from what he called a “makeshift studio” in the recreation room of his Wilmington, Delaware, home.
Biden, who was vice president under President Barack Obama, currently leads the Democratic nominating contest against Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.
White House medical experts have forecast that even if Americans hunker down in their homes to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, some 100,000 to 240,000 people could die from the disease.
Already, some 5,340 Americans have died and over 225,510 cases have been confirmed, according to a Reuters tally.
The Republican Party had already planned to hold their nominating convention in August, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Republican National Committee spokesman Rick Gorka said the party was making sure state party organizations had the resources needed for their nomination contests, which are seen as a formality given widespread support in the party for Trump.
“We are fully committed to holding the Republican convention in Charlotte as planned and re-nominating President Trump,” Gorka said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)