President Trump on Monday threatened to yank the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, N.C., where it is scheduled to be held in August, accusing the state’s Democratic governor of being in a “shutdown mood” that could prevent a fully attended event.
The president tweeted that he had “LOVE” for North Carolina, a swing state that he won in 2016, but he added that without a “guarantee” from the governor, Roy Cooper, that the event could be held at full capacity, “we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”
Mr. Trump wrote that if Mr. Cooper did not provide an answer “immediately,” he would “be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do.”
Separately, in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Vice President Mike Pence said that without guarantees from North Carolina, Republicans might need to move the convention to a state further along in the reopening.
The New York Times reported last week that Republicans were quietly discussing the possibility of a pared-down convention. Mr. Trump has wondered aloud to several aides why the convention can’t be held in a hotel ballroom in Florida, a state with a Republican governor that is further along in relaxing restrictions related to the coronavirus.
In his interview on Fox News, Mr. Pence listed Florida, as well as Georgia and Texas — two other states with Republican governors — as possible host states.
Republicans are contractually bound by a 2018 agreement to hold the convention in Charlotte. But Mr. Cooper and Vi Lyles, the mayor, have said they will let health experts determine whether the convention can be safely held from Aug. 24 to 27.
In a statement, Dory MacMillan, an aide to Mr. Cooper, said: “State health officials are working with the R.N.C. and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte. North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety.”
In North Carolina, where Republican lawmakers have pressured Mr. Cooper to speed up the end of social-distancing measures, a modified “safer at home” order took effect on Friday as the state entered “Phase 2” of reopening. The order allows restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity and permits outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people.
Mr. Cooper is up for re-election this year, and Charlotte, the largest city in North Carolina, is a critical area for him. More than a third of Charlotte residents are black, and Mr. Cooper will need robust turnout among black voters to get another term. Low-income and minority communities across the country have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus.
Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, has recorded more than 3,300 coronavirus cases and at least 74 deaths, according to a New York Times database, more than any other county in the state.
Even before Monday, Mr. Trump made clear that he would blame Mr. Cooper and Ms. Lyles, who is also a Democrat, if the convention is altered or modified.
He told a writer for The Washington Examiner in a recent interview that he is a “traditionalist” and that he wants a typical convention. The Republican National Committee’s rules call for an in-person convention, and the party’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, recently told reporters that a virtual convention held online isn’t under consideration.
Republicans helping to prepare for the convention have discussed things like replicating the N.F.L.’s recent virtual draft, but people involved in the planning stressed that if convention officials tried something like that, it would not be to supplant an in-person event.
Before the coronavirus spread across the country, Republicans were planning an elaborate convention where Mr. Trump would formally be nominated for a second time.