RNC broadens search for city to host convention celebration

Republican Party officials are in the process of scouting at least ten cities across at least seven states as the party scrambles to find a new location to host portions of this summer's Republican National Convention.

As Fox News reported earlier this week, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is moving toward holding the official business of its quadrennial presidential nominating convention in the original host city of Charlotte, N.C. – and the main celebrations in another city.

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An RNC official confirmed to Fox News that visits by scouting teams are underway, saying “if they aren’t already on the ground, they’ll be visiting in the coming days.”

And the list of cities in contention has grown in the past couple of days. It now includes Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa in Florida; Atlanta and Savannah in Georgia; Nashville, Tenn.; Dallas, Texas; Phoenix, Ariz.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Republican governors in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee have all said in recent days that they would welcome the convention.

An RNC official tells Fox News there’s a possibility that multiple cities could hold the celebratory portions of the convention.

“A lot of this is fluid,” said the official, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely. “There isn’t a firm timeline set on this. We want to do our due diligence with the cities that have expressed interest and make sure that we’re getting all the information possible for the one gentleman that makes the ultimate decision on what we want to do and that’s what we’re in the process of doing.”

But RNC officials stress that the mechanics of the convention will still be held in Charlotte, which was selected two years ago by the party as the site of the 2020 convention.

“The RNC’s Executive Committee has voted unanimously to allow the official business of the national convention to continue in Charlotte. Many other cities are eager to host the president’s acceptance of the nomination, and we are currently in talks with several of them to host that celebration,” RNC Communications Director Michael Ahrens told Fox News.

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The party is contractually obligated to conduct some of its convention business in Charlotte and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in an interview Thursday with Gray Television that “we are not dropping Charlotte as the convention site.”

The moves by the RNC come after  President Trump tweeted this week that the GOP is “now forced to seek another” location other than Charlotte to host the convention, which is scheduled to start on Aug. 24.

The president’s announcement came after North Carolina's Democratic governor said GOP leaders needed to provide plans for a scaled-down event due to coronavirus pandemic health concerns. The party pressed for a full convention, which Gov. Roy Cooper essentially said they could not accommodate.

The fireworks over the Charlotte convention come after tense negotiations in recent weeks between Republican Party officials and Cooper’s team. The president, who aims to hold a regular in-person convention packed with thousands of officials, lawmakers, delegates, and party activists and supporters amid the coronavirus, has repeatedly fired away at Cooper over the past week.

After Cooper wrote a letter to the top convention organizer and McDaniel that "planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” the president returned fire on Twitter.

@NC_Governor 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,” Trump charged.

The RNC repeatedly urged Cooper to commit to allowing as many as 19,000 people in Charlotte’s Spectrum Center. But Cooper said that it’s unlikely that virus trends would allow a full-capacity nominating convention.

“We think it is unlikely that we would be to the point at the end of August to be able to have a jam-packed 19,000-person convention in the Spectrum arena," Cooper told reporters. "So the likelihood of it being in Charlotte depends upon the RNC’s willingness to discuss with us a scaled-down convention, which we would like to do.”