- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 26, 2020

GOP governors are trying to lure the Republican National Convention away from North Carolina after President Trump threatened to move it, further defining the partisan divide over coronavirus shutdowns.

Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida said Tuesday they would welcome the opportunity to have the Republican National Convention, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, relocate to their states.

The invitations came after Mr. Trump threatened to move the convention if North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, refuses to guarantee the event can go on as planned.

“In terms of the RNC, Florida would love to have the RNC,” Mr. DeSantis said in response to a reporter’s question at a press conference Tuesday. “Heck, I’m a Republican, it would be good for us to have the DNC.”

Mr. DeSantis rolled out the welcome mat.

“The door is open, we want to have the conversation, whether RNC, DNC, whatever, because I think it will be good for the people of Florida,” he said.

Mr. Kemp delivered a similar message on Twitter.

“With world-class facilities, restaurants, hotels, and workforce, Georgia would be honored to safely host the Republican National Convention,” Mr. Kemp tweeted. “We hope you will consider the Peach State, @realdonaldtrump!”

Mr. Kemp and Mr. DeSantis have been at the forefront of the Republican push to reopen states during the coronavirus pandemic, scoring them points with Republican activists and scorn from Democrats.

Democratic leaders pushed back their nominating convention in Milwaukee from July to late August. They also raised the prospect of the event being scaled down to reduce the risk of exposing delegates and activists to the virus.

Mr. Trump started rumbling about the GOP convention this month when he suggested that Mr. Cooper was using the coronavirus as an excuse to hurt the convention.

He doubled-down over the weekend, saying those planning to attend the GOP convention must “be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied.”

“If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Cooper said public health officials are working with the RNC “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,” he said.

Mr. Cooper has begun reopening North Carolina businesses and recreational activities that were shut down March 27 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited and public entertainment venues remain closed.

North Carolina’s coronavirus caseload has continued to increase, with the highest one-day spike of more than 1,000 cases reported Friday by the state health department, though the number of reported cases fell to 176 on Tuesday.

• S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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