President Donald Trump on Monday morning threatened to move August’s Republican National Convention out of North Carolina unless there are guarantees the state will let everyone attend.
“I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed ... ..full attendance in the Arena,” he began in a string of four tweets.
Trump added: “In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”
In case voters in the swing state might take offense, Trump twice indicated his “love” for the state and its people. Recent polls have shown Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a tight battle for North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes.
The convention is scheduled to be held in Charlotte on Aug. 24-27, less than a week after Democrats are set to wrap up their rescheduled convention in Milwaukee.
In a statement, Cooper said North Carolina was cooperating with the Republican National Committee: “State health officials are working with the RNC and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte. North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety.”
Trump’s tweets amounted to a threat. The GOP convention is expected to be worth tens of millions of dollars to North Carolina’s economy, which has been devastated by the coronavirus. Cooper is facing reelection this fall, and his handling of the pandemic — and his ability to bolster the state’s economy — is likely to be a key issue.
Monday morning’s tweets fit with the president’s trend of attacking states governed by Democrats via Twitter over restrictions in those states and requests for federal assistance. Prominent targets in recent weeks have included Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois.
Trump’s remarks amounted to a shift in the party’s posture. Republicans have said they are intent on forging ahead with the convention and have been raising millions of dollars needed to stage the event. The party has set a goal of raising $65 million. The president has remained in touch with top party officials, including RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, and has privately said he is determined to hold a convention.
Republicans say they still have time to decide how to proceed: The site build-out for the Charlotte event isn’t slated to begin until mid-July.
Appearing on Fox News later Monday morning, Vice President Mike Pence listed several states the convention could be moved to, including Texas, Georgia and Florida, Trump’s adopted home state. Those three states all have Republican governors. (Later Monday, Trump tweeted he had “zero interest“ in moving the convention to Trump National Doral Miami in Florida.)
“What you’re hearing the president say today is just a very reasonable request of the governor of North Carolina,” Pence said.
“We all want to be in Charlotte, we love North Carolina, but having a sense now is absolutely essential because of the immense preparations that are involved and we look forward to working with Gov. Cooper, getting a swift response, and if need be moving the national convention to a state that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that we can gather there.”
Trump‘s tweets come a day after residents of North Carolina defied Cooper’s restrictions to watch auto racing in Alamance County. Press reports indicated that approximately 4,000 people were in attendance. The governor has been permitting a gradual reopening of the state, but gatherings were supposed to be restricted to 10 people indoors or 25 outdoors.
Mecklenberg County, which encompasses Charlotte, has emerged as a hot spot for the virus and the area has been reporting a growing number of cases.
While Republicans are determined to stage an in-person convention, Democrats have said it is likely substantial elements of their confab will be be held online.