Iowa delegates prepare for unconventional RNC

Iowa delegates prepare for this year’s Republican National Convention from Iowa and North Carolina.



President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally on March 2, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images/TNS)

Julia Shanahan, Politics Editor

Monday marks the first day of this year’s Republican National Convention, and instead of dozens of Iowa delegates preparing to make the trip to North Carolina to participate in the nation’s presidential nomination process, only six delegates will be representing Iowa.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the RNC will be primarily virtual, with keynote speakers planning to give speeches virtually. President Trump will give his speech from the White House lawn, and only a limited number of delegates will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to likely re-nominate Trump as the Republican nominee for president.

David Barker, a national delegate and member of the state Board of Regents, drove from Iowa to Charlotte on Aug. 21 to attend a Credentials Committee meeting. Barker said while the decision to make the convention virtual happened last minute, he said the RNC has still delivered timely information to the delegates.

Barker was an alternate delegate at the 2016 RNC in Cleveland, Ohio, and said the Party will be missing out on valuable networking opportunities with the convention being mostly virtual.

“It’s too bad,” Barker said. “We’re really disappointed that we can’t have that again. It’s a great networking opportunity for people, great team building for the Party across the country — obviously, it will not be anything like that.”

Only delegates serving on convention committees were invited to North Carolina. Iowa typically sends about 40 delegates in total to the RNC, and Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann will cast votes for those delegates remaining in Iowa.

Barker said his role in the convention is mostly operational, and that he’s hoping to meet with people from across the country to learn how the Republican Party is operated in other states.

“If I can make some connections with people at other state parties, then the trip will be worth it,” Barker said.

The plan for the RNC to take place in Charlotte was made before the pandemic fully began to set in. In early June, Trump suggested pulling the RNC out of Charlotte and moving it to Jacksonville, Florida, in order to have a full-scale convention.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in a tweet in early June that the Republican Party would not agree to scale down the convention to limit the number of people in the city. An in-person event was ultimately called off, and the four-day convention will feature pre-recorded and remote speeches.

Trudy Caviness, an Iowa delegate and Republican Party chair in Wapello County, said she will be seeing out the convention from Iowa, and that some delegates are hosting watch parties throughout the week.

Caviness said she’s disappointed she isn’t able to experience a typical convention, but she believes the Republican Party made the responsible choice by moving to a virtual setting.

“It’s just a situation that you look at and you realize this is where we are today, this is our reality — and so it’s not very upsetting, but it is disappointing,” Caviness said.

Unlike the Democratic National Convention, Republican delegates from Iowa will not have any virtual meetings. Rather, those delegates on the Platform Committee will serve as a voice for the Iowa Republican Party. Caviness said she’s confident that the Party’s long-standing values will be reaffirmed at the convention.

Anthony Marlowe, a national delegate who made the trip to Charlotte, said attending Iowans and by-proxy delegation “are proudly and unanimously supporting President Trump for four more years.”

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Marlowe called the timing of the pandemic extremely suspicious, and that an ulterior motive by an adversary remains an open question until experts in the U.S. know more about the coronavirus’ origins and evolution.

The National Center for Biotechnology and Information said while the etiology of the coronavirus is unknown, it is a strain of a severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and the first COVID-19 positive patients were found in Wuhan, China.

According to a report from BBC News, U.S. Department of State correspondence revealed embassy officials were concerned about biosecurity at a lab in Wuhan. The office of the U.S. national intelligence director, according to BBC, said the virus is not man-made or modified, and that they are investigating whether the virus was spread through contact with animals or a laboratory accident.

“Unconventional convention or not, the president’s supporters and our entire Party are as enthusiastic as ever to re-nominate the 45th president of the United States of America,” Marlowe said in an email. “There is no arguing with the scorecard — President Trump’s results speak for themselves.”

The RNC will start Monday and end Thursday. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is scheduled to give a speech on Tuesday, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will give a speech on Wednesday.

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