CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Three weeks before the Republican National Convention kicks off in Charlotte, details are just emerging about what will happen - though not where.
GOP officials have said the formal nomination of President Donald Trump will take place on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, though no location has been nailed down. Officials are still negotiating use of the Charlotte Convention Center.
Axios reported Tuesday that the convention will include four nights of programming that include a “nightly surprise.” Events would be held from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. each night in another metro area that officials declined to identify. It’s unclear whether that would include Charlotte or another N.C. city.
GOP sources told Axios that the programming will describe in “granular details” what a second Trump term would look like and mix live and virtual appearances. Convention officials would not independently confirm that Tuesday morning.
There’s been little publicly announced about the details of a convention that was once expected to bring 50,000 people to Charlotte and generate an economic boon of over $150 million.
Since just a few months ago, when convention officials led the national media on a tour of the Spectrum Center, the GOP convention has had a bumpy ride.
When Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, citing health risks, refused to give Trump the guarantee he wanted of a full convention hall, the president abruptly moved most of the convention to Jacksonville. But when Florida’s COVID-19 cases spiked, he canceled the Jacksonville “celebration.”
That left the convention’s Charlotte portion, which includes business meetings and the actual nominations of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Those events will follow a meeting of the Republican National Committee that starts Aug. 21 at the Westin Hotel. It’s expected to attract over 300 people.
‘TWISTS AND TURNS’
The uncertainty has kept city officials guessing.
“The absurdity of all of it is whatever we think we know today will be drastically different from a week from now,” City Council member Larken Egleston, a Democrat, told the Observer. “It all seems to ebb and flow based on the random musings of the president.”
Republican council member Ed Driggs said the city’s primary concern revolves around public safety, though it’s unclear what level of security may be needed for Trump’s renomination.
“We need to be sure that whatever twists and turns this takes, we have the capacity to deal with crowd situations and keep everything safe,” Driggs said. “You still have the issue of the possibility of demonstrations . . . "
Law enforcement officials aren’t expected to release a convention security plan — including its effect on uptown traffic — until next week at the earliest.
Police were “already prepared for what could have been a large presence of protesters in our city when we thought the RNC was going to be a whole-scale convention,” Egleston said. “They will be ready, but it certainly seems like a waste of energy to come and protest for such a small gathering.”
There’s also uncertainty over North Carolina’s pandemic restrictions.
The governor is expected to announce this week whether the state will continue in Phase 2, which restricts most indoor gatherings to 10 people. Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said he expects convention officials to present a health and safety plan this week.
“The health and safety of North Carolinians is the top priority,” Porter said. “State health officials have been in contact with convention officials about what measures will need to be in place in order to safely hold this event including social distancing and face coverings among other requirements.”
A convention spokeswoman said GOP officials will “prioritize the health and safety of convention attendees and the Charlotte community.”
The Democratic convention also has shrunk amid the coronavirus pandemic. That event starts Aug. 17. Anchored in Milwaukee, it has become mostly virtual.
Democrats have released a few more details of their convention.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, they plan to meet two hours a night from Aug. 17-20. Speakers will include former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. There will be a video tribute to the late congressman John Lewis. And presumptive nominee Joe Biden will speak on the final night from Milwaukee.