Drama over the Republican National Convention's locale strikes familiar chords. Once again President Donald Trump clashes with a Democratic governor over coronavirus restrictions and creates a regional contest within the GOP to curry his favor.
The Trump camp seems to be ditching plans for Charlotte, North Carolina, so the president can address a denser crowd elsewhere. This does not affect the certainty of his nomination. The vote in the hall will offer even less suspense than the roll call for former Vice President Joe Biden's expected nomination in Milwaukee the week of Aug. 17.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper refused to guarantee that Republicans could hold their Aug. 24-27 event at full capacity, citing the pandemic. Trump tweeted Tuesday: "Governor Cooper is still in Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised."
Trump keeps criticizing state authorities' pandemic measures. But he's reluctant to defy them outright. The White House-controlled Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set the phased-reopening guidelines cited by Cooper.
In Michigan recently, Trump declined to wear a mask for much of his visit to a Ford plant making personal protective equipment and ventilators. Gretchen Whitmer, the governor there, is another Democrat he criticizes. For Trump, politics and the pandemic are intertwined.
Recent polls show Trump running neck and neck with Biden in North Carolina and trailing him in Michigan. Trump won both states in 2016.
Having others curry favor with him seems to please Trump, who famously "hired" and "fired" people on his "reality" TV show. So the Charlotte issue opens a new round of jockeying by other states to host his big show. The dispute still may be negotiable, but time is running out.
“Due to the directive from the governor that our convention cannot go on as planned as required by our rules, the celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination will be held in another city," Republican National Committee spokesman Mike Reed said. "Should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”
Cooper replied: “Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek."
Republicans reportedly are eyeing Nashville, Tennessee, as an alternative. Trump is running way ahead in that state, which has been lifting its live-music restrictions.
There also has been talk of moving the convention to Arizona. Three years ago, peaceful protests outside a Trump rally at the Phoenix Convention Center turned violent. Police dispersed the crowds with tear gas and pepper balls, local reports said.
Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko tweeted: "Unlike the NC Governor, I'm ready to welcome the RNC to AZ!"