Well, I must admit I was wrong about President Trump and the Republican National Convention, which was originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, in August. I figured his threats to spoil many months of preparations by moving the event to an idyllic place where no coronavirus precautions would be taken was a bluff aimed at messing with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and maximizing his leverage over the proceedings. Instead Trump on Twitter abruptly pulled the plug, and the next day the RNC confirmed that it wasn’t just a presidential temper tantrum. Fox News reports:
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.
It seemed in public that the back-and-forth between Trump and Cooper was moving along predictably toward a compromise, but apparently the president demanded an unconditional commitment to a full convention venue with no social distancing or masks, and no responsible governor was going to go along with that 12 weeks out.
Or maybe one will. NBC News reports:
Two days after President Donald Trump said he was seeking another state to host the Republican National Convention in August, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is raising his hand.
DeSantis, a Republican, was asked in a Fox News interview Thursday why he thinks Florida can hold the convention and whether he would allow a full stadium of people, as Trump has been calling for.
Check out DeSantis’s crabwise approach to the only question that matters:
“The shape of the epidemic is just simply going to be different, and hopefully it’s a lot better, but I think we’ll be able to make those decisions about what precautions need to be taken as you get closer,” DeSantis said. “But to just rule out a convention at this stage, I think, is a mistake so we’ve said we want to get to ‘yes’ on it and I think we’ll be able to do it.”
Similar vague but positive mumbling has been emanating from Republican governors’ offices in Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee (where the RNC is already conducting a site visit). There’s also talk of splitting up the convention (perhaps a sneaky way of making it “virtual”) by holding some low-profile business sessions in Charlotte to satisfy RNC contracts with the city and then staging the only event Trump really cares about elsewhere: a presidential acceptance speech in front of a full-arena, no-mask, hootin’ and hollerin’ MAGA assemblage of many thousands.
What’s unclear at this point is whether Trump is indeed determined to have an old-school experience even if it threatens to devolve into a coronavirus super-spreader event, or simply wants to be able to call the shots without any resistance from a “Democrat governor” like Cooper.
Speaking of Cooper, the Charlotte Observer believes he emerged from the tilt with Trump as a “winner,” while North Carolina Republicans are the big “losers”:
They looked at the convention, with all the hoopla and media attention as a way not only to renominate a president but boost their chances in a critical swing state, with big races for the U.S. Senate and governor. Now another state will get all the attention.
Republicans elsewhere eager to revive moribund tourism and recreation industries with convention activity should take note: Trump cares only about the convention as a reflection of his power and glory.