Gettysburg or White House: Trump narrows RNC speech backdrop choices, decision coming 'soon'

Trump has been criticized for publicly weighing using the White House as the backdrop for a political speech.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump gestures as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on July 27, 2020.Andrew Harnik / AP file
By Dartunorro Clark

President Donald Trump said Monday that Gettysburg or the White House will serve as the backdrop for his nomination acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention in two weeks.

"We have narrowed the Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, to be delivered on the final night of the Convention (Thursday), to two locations - The Great Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the White House, Washington, D.C. We will announce the decision soon!" the president said in a tweet.

Traditionally, presidential nominees deliver their acceptance speech in front of a large crowd of cheering supporters on the final night of their party's nominating convention.

But the coronavirus pandemic upended Trump's plans to have a large, in-person Republican convention, forcing the RNC to conduct mostly virtual events. He abandoned a planned speech in Jacksonville, Florida, after its City Council president raised safety and health concerns last month and threatened to oppose a key funding bill for the convention.

Using the White House as a backdrop has raised concerns among legal and ethics experts, who say it is shattering presidential norms by crossing the line between campaigning and the official business of the president. Trump has defended giving the speech at the presidential mansion because he says it will entail less security costs.

Historians consider the Battle of Gettysburg to be a turning point in the American Civil War, which was fought in the 1800s over legalized slavery. President Abraham Lincoln delivered a well-known address after the battle, dedicating a war memorial at the site where more than 6,000 died. Trump, who has often compares himself to Lincoln, previously gave a speech there as a candidate in 2016.

Trump initially moved the Republican convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville after officials in North Carolina raised concerns about hosting such a large event during a global pandemic.

Florida is one of the battleground states most critical to Trump's re-election. He narrowly won the state in 2016, taking 48.6 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 47.4 percent. A Quinnipiac University poll released last month showed Trump struggling with Florida voters, as 51 percent said they backed former Vice President Joe Biden, compared to 38 percent who said they supported Trump.

The Republican convention is scheduled for the week of Aug. 24

Democrats are also planning a four-day virtual celebration. Biden will not travel to Milwaukee for the party's convention, which is the week of Aug. 17. Because of health concerns, delegates were told to stay home.