President Trump announced late Tuesday night that Republicans will change the host state for their national convention as North Carolina remains under shelter-in-place orders and the state’s governor refuses “to guarantee use of the Spectrum Arena” in Charlotte, despite earlier assurances.
While the president did not name a replacement site, GOP officials mentioned earlier in the day that they had begun the process of scouting for alternative locations after NC Democrat Governor Roy Cooper suggested to them that the coronavirus pandemic may force them to settle for a scaled-back event.
“Had long planned to have the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I love,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Now, 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.”
Responding to the president’s tweet, Cooper tried blaming the GOP and said it was “unfortunate” that Republicans “never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe.”
Cooper had written in a letter to the top convention organizer and the national GOP chairwoman that “planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity.” The letter came on the eve of a deadline from the GOP for assurances that Cooper would allow a full-scale event in August.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, one of the recipients of Cooper’s letter, accused him of “dragging his feet” on giving them guidance for proceeding with convention plans.
Mcdaniel then released a statement saying “we have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states” that have reached out to express interest in hosting.
Earlier in the day, North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley acknowledged some changes would likely be needed, but maintained Republicans want a “full-scale” convention.
“Look, we’re not going to move forward with any activities that do not follow federal, state or local requirements and regulations. So, we need to know what those requirements are going to be,” he said.
Republican governors of Tennessee, Florida and Georgia have said they would be interested in hosting if North Carolina fell through. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said that GOP officials are coming to scout Nashville on Thursday, calling the city “the best place in America to have a convention.”
Trump has reportedly favored Florida, a state with a Republican governor that is further along in relaxing restrictions related to the coronavirus.
Wednesday was the GOP’s deadline for assurances from Cooper. Last week, Trump demanded Cooper that guarantee him a full-scale event or he would be forced to move the event elsewhere.