The Republican National Convention is scheduled for August 24-27 in Charlotte, NC, and Donald Trump has been adamant that the event will go forward as planned.
That means thousands of Republicans descending on Charlotte from across the country and standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the Spectrum Center, acclaiming Trump as their standard-bearer.
That is unless the Democratic Governor Roy Cooper intervenes and nixes the whole thing.
But what makes Cooper’s situation unique is the authority he wields over the other party’s national convention. Trump has been adamant about having a full-scale in-person convention, but as those plans forge ahead, Cooper will have to walk a fine line between protecting and alienating his constituents.
The governor could ban such a large gathering outright. Or he could limit the number of people allowed to gather in any given place. But any moves to curb the convention could inflame Trump and his base — and prove politically costly to Cooper in November.
Democrats have yet to decide how to hold their August 17-20 Milwaukee convention. They may make it a “virtual” convention or allow a limited number of Democrats to gather. The Biden team has proven laughably inept at holding virtual anything, so they may cancel it altogether.
Cooper’s dilemma is made more painful by the realization that canceling the convention would cost the state $200 million. But local Republicans have been talking mostly with another Democrat, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, and believe the governor is not a problem.
Republican officials said they haven’t had extensive discussions with Cooper about the convention; most of the talks have been between Charlotte’s Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, and GOP brass. But they said they’re not concerned that Cooper will pump the brakes on their convention plans.
On April 28, Charlotte’s Democratic-dominated city council voted 6-5 to accept a $50 million grant from the Justice Department to cover insurance and security costs for the convention, marking an important step forward. Opponents said holding a 50,000-person convention would be impossible to pull off and dangerous to public health.
During an April 3 Twitter town hall, Lyles hesitated to echo the GOP’s full-speed-ahead message but said the city is “proceeding in that direction” [of hosting the convention] and has a contractual agreement with the Republican National Committee to do so.
It sounds like Mayor Lyles is on the side of the GOP in getting the convention off the ground. But a “second wave” of virus infections might cause her to put the brakes on any mass meeting.
Cooper has been very cautious about reopening the state — more cautious than neighboring states.
Neighboring states like South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee relaxed stay-at-home orders as early as April 30, allowing residents to begin dining in restaurants and shopping in retail stores.
Cooper, by contrast, has taken a more measured approach. He’s employed a three-phase reopening strategy that allows nonessential businesses to reopen as early as Saturday but keeps a stay-at-home order in place for two to three more weeks, well beyond the edicts of other Deep South states.
We’ll see if it costs him in November or not.
Trump absolutely needs North Carolina to win and, with the state trending more Democratic in recent elections, the president sees holding the convention there as key to his re-election. It will energize his base and showcase other GOP candidates like North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who is challenging Cooper in November.
So the convention is key not only to Trump’s chances but other Republicans’ efforts as well. It’s unsettling to think that all of this is within the power of one Democrat to ruin if he chooses.