GOP governors jockey to elbow out North Carolina as convention host

Republican governors are preemptively pitching their states as potential host sites for the Republican National Convention after President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE threatened to yank the August gathering from North Carolina.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) tweeted on Tuesday that his state “would be honored to safely host the Republican National Convention” should the current plan to hold it in Charlotte, N.C., fall through.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisKey swing-state election lawsuits could help shape the presidential race First death reported from Hurricane Sally in Alabama Trump tells Gulf Coast residents to prepare for 'extremely dangerous' Hurricane Sally MORE (R) said he would “love to have” the convention come to the Sunshine State, pointing to the “economic impact” of such a massive gathering.

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And in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielNational Urban League, BET launch National Black Voter Day Trump officials defend president's coronavirus response amid Woodward revelations Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response MORE said Trump had already gotten calls from several states willing to host the GOP’s national convention if the party decides against Charlotte.

“There’s a lot of states that are calling the president right now saying, ‘Hey, why don’t you bring that revenue to our state?’” McDaniel said, later adding, “Every state we talk to is saying, ‘We want to nominate the president here. They’re so excited to have that.’”

The preemptive jockeying from governors and the suggestion from party leaders that the convention may not happen in Charlotte after all comes a day after Trump warned that he may seek to move the event to another state unless he gets a guarantee from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) that the convention can be held at full capacity.

Trump said on Tuesday that a decision on whether to hold the convention in Charlotte could come soon. 

"We’re talking about a very short period of time. It’s a massive expenditure, and we have to know," Trump said. "I would say within a week, certainly, we’d have to know," Trump said.

The convention is currently slated to take place from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27. But the coronavirus pandemic has stirred concerns over whether the event can be held safely.

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Cooper has begun reopening the state in phases, with the latest stage — phase two, which allows businesses such as restaurants and barbershops to open at limited capacity — going into effect on Friday. Indoor gatherings are currently limited to no more than 10 people, while outdoor gatherings can include up to 25 people.

Florida, Georgia and Texas, meanwhile, are further along in the reopening process. The coronavirus is still spreading in those states. In Florida, for example, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases passed the 50,000 mark over the weekend. In Texas, nearly 56,000 people have been infected. And in Georgia, there have been more than 43,000 confirmed cases.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Cooper said state officials have asked the RNC for a written proposal detailing how they plan to handle health risks at the convention.

“I’m not surprised by anything that I see on Twitter,” Cooper said, addressing Trump’s tweets. “I will say that it’s OK for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be. Already, we’ve been in talks with the RNC about the kind of convention that they would need to run and the kind of options we need on the table.”

“We’re talking about something that’s going to happen here months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding COVID-19 in North Carolina,” he added.

Republican leaders already have a few alternate host states in mind should Trump make good on his threat to pull the convention from North Carolina.

In an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Monday, Vice President Pence pointed to Texas, Florida and Georgia as potential alternatives, saying that the three states have “made tremendous progress on reopening their communities and reopening their economies.”

“I think the president is absolutely intent on ensuring that as we see our nation continue to make steady progress on putting the coronavirus epidemic in the past, that come this August, we’ll be able to come together in a safe and responsible venue and re-nominate president Donald Trump for four more years,” Pence said.

Moving the Republican National Convention — especially less than 100 days before it begins — would be a monumental undertaking. Such gatherings usually take months or years to organize and execute. Staffers from across the country must be relocated, convention centers and hotel rooms must be secured, and tight security measures must be put in place.

What’s more, it’s unclear if Trump himself can unilaterally relocate the convention. The contract for the event is between the Republican National Committee, the host committee, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, meaning the president is not a party to the agreement.

Even if city and county officials were to back out of the event, Republicans would have to find a new site for the convention, an onerous process that would require the support of local governments, which would likely have to front millions of dollars to prepare for the convention.

Charlotte has already spent millions preparing for the event. The city council voted last month to accept a $50 million grant from the Justice Department to help cover security costs for the convention.

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In some ways, Florida would be a natural alternative for the convention. Trump owns several properties in the state and became a resident last year. It’s also the nation’s largest swing state, and Trump sees it as crucial to his reelection prospects in November.

Still, he threw cold water on the idea of hosting the Republican National Convention at his Doral golf resort, saying on Monday that its ballroom “is not nearly big enough” and that he “would like to stay” in North Carolina.

One potential alternative to Charlotte could be Jacksonville, Fla. The city’s Republican mayor, Lenny Curry, told Politico that he would be interested in hosting the convention. 

For Democrats, the prospect of an in-person convention is less certain. The party already postponed its convention in Milwaukee from July to August, and its presumptive presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Trump expects to nominate woman to replace Ginsburg next week Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE, has said the party may have to consider a scaled-down or virtual event.

The Democratic Party’s rules committee moved earlier this month to give the convention’s CEO, Joe Solmonese, more authority to limit the size of the gathering if deemed necessary. And Democratic National Committee members and delegates will be allowed to vote on party business remotely.

Top Republicans have largely written off the possibility of a virtual convention. Kayleigh McEnany, the former Trump campaign spokesperson who recently became the White House press secretary, declined on Tuesday to address whether the president is open to the idea of a virtual convention.

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“I won’t engage on a hypothetical as to where the cases will be, but I would just note that we assess the facts on a day-by-day basis, and currently we’re coming down, and that’s really encouraging to see, and we’re ready for the convention to take place,” she said at a Tuesday press briefing.

Still, McDaniel suggested last week that at least some aspects of the Republican National Convention could change ahead of August.

“It’s quite a ways away, and there’s ample time for us to adjust if necessary,” McDaniel said on a call with reporters.

Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels contributed.