WASHINGTON – Republicans are nearing a decision on a new city to host the party’s convention, where they will nominate President Donald Trump for a second term.
RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Tuesday a decision will probably come “within the next week,” as party officials continue to tour locations that could host the celebration instead of Charlotte, North Carolina, the original host city.
The RNC backed out of Charlotte last week, saying North Carolina officials could not guarantee full use of their facilities in late August over concerns about the coronavirus.
The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 24 to Aug. 27. McDaniel mentioned Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Tennessee as possibilities – in that order.
Among the cities believed to be in the hunt are Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Savannah, Georgia; Orlando, Florida; Jacksonville Florida; Dallas; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix and Las Vegas. RNC officials have toured several of these cities over the last week and have trips on tap for Dallas and Phoenix.
With the exception of Nevada, each is led by a Republican governor who supports – and is lobbying for – their state’s bid to become the new host even amid the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic mayors of multiple cities have expressed health and cost concerns with an event that could bring tens of thousands of visitors, however.
More: GOP, Democratic conventions face uncertainties around coronavirus, but delegates are still eager
In an interview on Fox News, McDaniel said Trump “really wanted” to have the event in Charlotte, but she accused North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat of playing “politics.” Cooper and Charlotte’s Democratic mayor, Vi Lyles, held off approving a plan for the convention, saying the state would maintain its pandemic-related ban on large gatherings until it is safe, and that they could not guarantee what the situation might look like in late August.
“The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” Cooper said.
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Republicans are seeking a “full convention” – one that would allow Trump to address an arena full of supporters like he did four years ago in Cleveland.
“But everybody is coming to the table,” McDaniel said. “We have all types of states – Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee – that have come and said we want to host your convention. We’ve been traveling. We will have to make a decision probably within the next week as to where we’re going to have this celebration.”
In retreating from Charlotte, the RNC cited North Carolina’s social-distancing rule that prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people in a room. The law remains in effect during the state’s phased approach to reopen.
In contrast to Republicans, Democrats whose convention is set for Aug. 17 to Aug. 20 in Milwaukee, are openly entertaining a “virtual” convention that would limit the number of people visiting the city.
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As Republicans seek a new convention host city, some mayors have expressed concerns about the coronavirus and also noted the potential financial toll for governments already strained by the pandemic. Local cooperation could be needed for police presence, road closures and other accommodations.
Jacksonville, Florida, Mayor Lenny Curry has been the most outspoken Republican city leader pushing for the event. Curry is former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally, has aggressively wooed RNC officials as well. Helping their cause, Florida is a crucial swing state in the 2020 election.
Trump is expected to be in Dallas on Thursday for a campaign fundraiser, giving party leaders a chance to tour the third largest city in Texas.
More: Texas GOP says it would welcome Republican National Convention if NC falters
In Orlando, the Democratic mayor of Orange County, Florida, Jerry Demings, voiced opposition to the convention, citing significant cost consideration as a “big unknown.” Demings is married to U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida, who is among the contenders presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is considering as a running mate.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper, a Democrat, said the city has “no money available from us for hosting this event” and and that its current health protocols would not allow an indoor gathering of that size.
“Of course, we are not surprised that anybody would want to be here, any national convention” Cooper said. “We look forward to the day when conventions routinely are back in Nashville.”
But Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who has pushed for Nashville to host the convention, said he doesn’t expect state dollars would be needed for the convention. Republican Tennessee lawmakers have said they would consider footing the bill if Nashville can’t or won’t.
“There hasn’t been a request for that, and I don’t expect there to be a request,” Lee said.
Contributing: David Jackson, USA TODAY. Natalie Allison, The Tennessean.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
Published 1:04 PM EDT Jun 10, 2020