The Republican National Committee unveiled plans on Wednesday to proceed with certain convention activities in Charlotte, North Carolina, even though President Donald Trump will deliver his nomination acceptance speech somewhere else.
The move came in response to growing concerns from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper that the full capacity convention Trump had requested is “very unlikely” to happen in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooper wants the GOP to continue discussing a scaled-back convention, while Republicans are seeking assurances that more than 10 people will be allowed in a room.
Cooper’s present executive order limits indoor gatherings to 10 people, and the governor believes “it’s not time yet to enter into phase 3” of reopening the state.
“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,” the RNC said in a statement. “Should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”
Dory MacMillan, a spokeswoman for Cooper, said in a statement that the governor “has been clear that the convention could be held with more than 10 people but that plans need to be in place for a scaled down convention with safety precautions. The state has asked for a plan from the RNC but instead has received a public demand for a guarantee of a full indoor convention without social distancing or protective measures.”
Had long planned to have the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I love. 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…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2020
Republican governors in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee have called on Trump to move the convention to their states, and the RNC is scheduled to visit Nashville on Thursday.
Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, is one of the most populous and liberal parts of the state. While North Carolina is a critical swing state in the presidential election and Trump could have generated lots of enthusiasm among his loyal base of supporters, there is little precedent for a convention site boosting a candidate’s performance.
Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College, noted former President Barack Obama held his 2012 convention in Charlotte but lost the state to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2012.
“Conventions don’t really have as great of an impact as people think,” Bitzer said. “The Democrats had a convention in Charlotte, and the state went for Romney by two points in 2012.”
Biden and the Democrats already have moved their convention from July 13-16 to the week of August 17 because of the pandemic. The gathering is still slated for an arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but officials have left open the possibility of holding it elsewhere or even having a “virtual” convention.