North Carolina governor remains firm on demand for scaled down Republican convention plans

(CNN) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is holding firm on his demand that GOP leaders provide him with plans for a scaled down GOP convention, even as Republican officials start scouting locations to move the August event.

In a letter to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Convention CEO Marcia Lee Kelly, the Democratic governor said that he would like to continue the conversation with organizers, but unless they offer up a much different plan, the chances of Charlotte, North Carolina, being able to host the event are “very unlikely.”

“The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” Cooper wrote. “We are happy to continue talking with you about what a scaled down convention would look like and we still await your proposed plan for that.”

Cooper’s response comes as Republicans move ahead with their threat to pull the party’s national convention from North Carolina.

Officials from the Republican National Committee are considering Nashville, Las Vegas, Orlando, Jacksonville and venues in Georgia to host their August convention if they fail to reach a deal with officials in North Carolina, two Republicans familiar with the planning tell CNN.

The contingency planning is to the point where party officials plan to travel to Nashville later this week to scout possible venues, the sources said, and may travel to other sites in the near future. Both Nashville and Las Vegas were prospective host cities before Republicans officially picked Charlotte.

Chairwoman McDaniel acknowledged in a statement after Cooper’s letter that Republicans are scouting alternative locations.

“We hope to still conduct the business of our convention in Charlotte, but we have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states we have reached out to in recent days about hosting an historic event to show that America is open for business,” she says in the statement.

McDaniel also accused Cooper of “dragging his feet” on providing planners with guidance.

Prior to Cooper’s response, Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said, “As we have said all along, we are committed to holding our convention in Charlotte, but we are still waiting for Governor Cooper to confirm that the convention we originally contracted can still be held there.”

The planned trips, which were first reported by Politico, are a clear attempt by Republicans to show they are serious about pulling out of the Charlotte convention.

The Republican National Committee, in a letter from McDaniel, set a Wednesday deadline for Cooper and officials from North Carolina to decide what kind of convention they will allow in the state this summer.

Trump, over the last two weeks, has started to target Cooper over the convention drama, a strategy that Republicans have said looks to turn the Democratic governor into a scapegoat should the convention not be able to go off as planned due to coronavirus.

Despite the pressure, Cooper, who is up for reelection in November, has not moved from his position that the state of the pandemic will dictate whether Republicans are able to fully gather in Charlotte.

“We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding Covid-19 in North Carolina,” Cooper said last week. “We’d like to reach a resolution that everyone can be reasonable about that puts public health, safety, the science and the facts as the number one thing we’re trying to do here.”

Cooper’s office did not immediately respond to questions from CNN about the planned scouting trips.

Where Republicans have been set on holding a largely unchanged, in-person convention, Democrats have been open about the possibility the event could be significantly changed or entirely virtual. Their Milwaukee convention was moved from mid-July to mid-August due to coronavirus concerns in April.