In late May, Donald Trump sought a "guarantee" from North Carolina that it would give the president what he wants for his party's national nominating convention: 50,000 Republicans, standing side by side, cheering him in an indoor venue, without regard for the painfully obvious health risks. Soon after, Trump told North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) that attendees must not be required to wear masks or socially distance.
Not surprisingly, these negotiations did not go well, which led Republicans to move much of their event to Jacksonville -- the north Florida city that appeared likely to make Trump happy.
How's that working out? One trouble area seems to be several GOP senators' reluctance to show up.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said on Thursday that he was unlikely to attend the Republican convention in Jacksonville, Fla., next month, citing scheduling conflicts.... Roberts, who is retiring at the end of the year, is the sixth GOP senator to indicate they will not attend the Republican convention in Jacksonville, Fla., next month.
It was against this backdrop that Congress' top Republican suggested yesterday the convention itself may not be feasible.
“It’s a challenging situation, and a number of my colleagues announced they are not going to attend,” [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said]. “We’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people.”
Well, at least convention organizers and party officials are on track with the venue, right? Wrong.
The Republican convention in Jacksonville, Fla., next month could be moved to an outdoor stadium as cases of the novel coronavirus in the state increase, according to several officials with knowledge of the plans. While no decision has been made, Republican officials are studying two outdoor professional sports stadiums near the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena where the convention is currently slated to be held. They are also looking more broadly into the logistics of pulling off an outdoor convention, according to two Republicans involved in the planning.
There is a 65,000-seat football stadium near the arena, but there's no reason to believe the president could fill it -- and he apparently has a thing about empty seats. What's more, if you've ever been to Florida in August, you know it can be extraordinarily unpleasant.
Having said all that, at least Republicans won't have to worry about the convention's finances. Wait, actually, that's proving to be a trouble area, too.
[A]s convention planners in Jacksonville seek to raise tens of millions of dollars on an almost impossibly rushed time frame, and in the middle of a raging pandemic, the governor is hindering those efforts, interviews show. [Gov. Ron DeSantis], a Republican, has directed his top fund-raiser, Heather Barker, to tell donors not to give to the convention because of a personal dispute between the governor and Susie Wiles, his former campaign manager who is serving as an informal adviser to the convention planners, according to multiple people familiar with his actions.
Oh. So a month before the party's convention, Republicans are struggling with convincing people to show up, finding a safe and suitable venue, and raising the tens of millions of dollars needed to pull off the spectacle Trump is eager to see.
All of this is unfolding in a state, county, and city where coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly. A local outlet reported yesterday, "Duval County’s positive single-day testing rate is now at 20.9 percent, the highest it’s been since the pandemic began in March, according to the Florida Department of Health."
Republican officials have long had the option of curtailing their convention plans -- Democrats are moving forward with a virtual event -- but by all accounts, the president has celebratory expectations that must be met.
The Republican convention is scheduled to begin on Aug. 24. Watch this space.