Jun 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

RNC expands convention search across the Sun Belt

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their families at the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their families on the last night of the Republican National Convention in Ohio in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images.

The Republican National Committee is planning site visits over the next 10 days to more than a half-dozen cities — across the South and into Texas and Arizona — as it scrambles for a new convention host, people familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios.

Driving the news: The RNC's executive committee voted Wednesday night to allow most of the convention to move — with only a smaller, official portion remaining in Charlotte — after North Carolina's governor said the coronavirus pandemic would mean a scaled-back event with social distancing and face coverings.

  • The cities under consideration include Jacksonville, Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta and possibly New Orleans and Savannah.

Key criteria given the time crunch and coronavirus realities, per our sources:

  • A mayor and governor who want the event and will give the RNC flexibility on crowd sizes and other considerations.
  • Enough hotel rooms and venue space.
  • The ability to draw large crowds and donors.

The consideration of Dallas and Phoenix come amid new polling showing Arizona — and even Texas — both of which President Trump won, could be up for grabs in November. But our sources say this polling has nothing to do with the consideration.

  • The reality is much blunter: They need a place that can bend over backwards to give Trump the big, boisterous crowd he wants, and they need to make it happen fast.

Between the lines: The main consideration, per one source involved in the internal conversations, is "Can we make sure the president has the event he's hoping for?"

  • All but New Orleans are in states with Republican governors.
  • Jacksonville is the only of those cities led by a Republican mayor. It's an appealing option to many RNC officials, but there's a concern about the availability of hotel rooms.
  • Dallas has an abundance of hotel rooms, venue space and Republican donors.
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and GOP lawmakers are aggressively pursuing it, sources said.
  • Orlando also has been floated but is less likely to happen, our sources say. One complication is that it's the county seat of Orange County. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is married to Democratic congresswoman Val Demings, who is among Joe Biden's prospective running mates.

The big question: It's still unclear what the "show" will look like — or how many nights it will span.

The bottom line: Trump wants a "gathering of people like in 2016" — and a contrast with more cautious Democrats, one source says.

  • "He wants people there, excited, the energy and enthusiasm.
  • "He doesn't want people to be standing six feet apart, socially distant, not being able to celebrate with people his renomination.
  • "I think it's going to be a great contrast with Dems. Them at home hunkered down doing a virtual convention. And then the week after Republicans and Trump, with an in person crowd, look like they’re open for business while Dems are hunkered down."
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