The Republican National Committee is likely to move at least part of its August convention to Jacksonville, Florida, after failing to reach an agreement with its initial host over the scope of coronavirus safety precautions, people familiar with the talks said.
Details of the arrangement were still being worked out and party aides are trying to determine if the city has enough hotel rooms to host the event, which draws tens of thousands of people including delegates, media, officials and hangers-on.
Florida is key to Trump’s re-election effort and Republicans familiar with the convention planning noted that while Jacksonville does not have the hotel space and convention infrastructure of other cities like Orlando, it has a friendly Republican mayor.
The convention’s lower-profile meetings would still occur in the original host city of Charlotte, North Carolina, but the marquee event—Donald Trump’s nomination acceptance speech—would be moved to a place where officials said they were willing to host a large gathering despite the virus.
One possible arrangement is that RNC members, state chairmen and two delegates from each state would meet in Charlotte and formally nominate Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, according to people familiar with the planning.
The following week, the full group of delegates and assorted other attendees would meet in Jacksonville for three days culminating in Trump’s acceptance speech, the people said.
The Republicans would skip amending their policy platform and adopt the one they crafted in 2016, the people said.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News Wednesday “no decision had been made” on a new location.
“There have been a number of cities under consideration. The president loves the state of North Carolina, really wanted to have it there, but unfortunately you have a governor there who is not willing to say, yes, you can move forward,” she said. “It’s a grave injustice to his state, taking a lot of economic boom out of there, that comes with a convention.”
The decision to move part of the convention came after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said his state could not agree to demands for a “‘full convention’ which includes 19,000 delegates,” as well as “full hotels and bars at capacity” due to social distancing requirements.
Trump tweeted that the GOP was “forced to seek” a new city for the party’s convention. A week earlier Trump had threatened to move the convention to a different city if Cooper would not allow all expected participants to come. Locations that were being considered included Nashville, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, and Savannah.
Dean Black, chairman of the Duval County Republicans in Jacksonville, also said the city had worked hard to get the group to move there.
“The mayor’s office has obviously been very involved in all of this and that’s really one of our greatest strengths: we have a unified Republican government here,” Black said. “They are accustomed to planning large events on the fly.”
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