Hours after President Trump tweeted that the GOP is “now forced to seek another” location other than Charlotte, N.C., to host this summer’s Republican National Convention, party officials said that the convention indeed “will be held in another city.”
And Republican sources confirm to Fox News that the search for a new site is getting underway, with party officials heading to Nashville, Tenn., later this week.
The decision comes after North Carolina’s Democratic governor said GOP leaders needed to provide plans for a scaled-down event due to coronavirus pandemic health concerns. The party pressed for a full convention, which Gov. Roy Cooper essentially said they could not accommodate.
“Due to the directive from the governor that our convention cannot go on as planned as required by our rules, the celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination will be held in another city,” a Republican National Committee official told Fox News early Thursday morning.
But they still left the door open to some aspects of the August convention being held in North Carolina, saying that “should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.” The party is contractually obligated to conduct some of its convention business in Charlotte.
Multiple Republican sources also confirmed to Fox News a Politico report that Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla., sites in Georgia, and Las Vegas, Nev., are also being considered, with trips by RNC officials likely to occur in the coming days. Republican governors in Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee have all said in recent days that they would welcome the GOP convention.
The fireworks over the Charlotte convention come after tense negotiations in recent weeks between Republican Party officials and North Carolina Gov. Cooper’s team. The president, who aims to hold a regular in-person convention packed with thousands of officials, lawmakers, delegates, and party activists and supporters amid the coronavirus, has repeatedly fired away at Cooper over the past week.
After Cooper wrote a letter to the top convention organizer and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel that “planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” the president took to Twitter on Thursday night
“Had long planned to have the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I love,” Trump tweeted. “Now, @NC_Governor Roy Cooper and his representatives refuse to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena – Spend millions of dollars, have everybody arrive, and then tell them they will not be able to gain entry. Governor Cooper is still in Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised. Would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the World, and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State. Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”
Cooper told reporters that it’s unlikely that virus trends would allow a full-capacity nominating convention for Trump to proceed at Charlotte’s professional basketball arena.
“We think it is unlikely that we would be to the point at the end of August to be able to have a jam packed 19,000-person convention in the Spectrum arena,” Cooper said. “So the likelihood of it being in Charlotte depends upon the RNC’s willingness to discuss with us a scaled-down convention, which we would like to do.”
About an hour after Trump’s tweets, Cooper took to Twitter to emphasize that “We have been committed to a safe RNC convention in North Carolina and it’s unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe. Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority.”
Firing back, McDaniel tweeted that “What’s unfortunate is that you still have yet to give guidance on what ‘scaled down’ means. Currently, you allow 10 people to gather indoors. Is that what scaled down means? Or is it 100 people? 1,000 people? Total lack of clarity from you.”
North Carolina’s considered a key general election battleground state in 2020. Then-Sen. Barack Obama won the state in his 2008 presidential victory but lost it four years later as he won re-election. Trump carried the state in 2016 but an average of the most recent general election polls in North Carolina suggests it’s all tied up between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger.
Democratic National Committee communications director Xochitl Hinojosa took aim at the president, saying on Thursday that “over 100,000 people have died, tens of millions are unemployed, and our country is facing civil unrest. And yet, Donald Trump is more concerned about holding a massive party for himself than leading our nation through crisis. He has abandoned the people of North Carolina while refusing to acknowledge the severity of this pandemic.”
While the president and the GOP remain firm on staging a mostly unchanged, in-person convention, Biden and Democratic Party officials have entertained holding a scaled-down confab or even a virtual convention. Earlier this spring they pushed back the date of their Milwaukee convention from mid-July to Aug. 17.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Gregg Re contributed to this report.