Jacksonville is front-runner for Trump convention speech

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White House adviser Jared Kushner, left, and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel walk towards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Md., Thursday, May 21, 2020, to join President Donald Trump on a trip to Michigan for a visit to a Ford manufacturing plant. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jacksonville, Florida, is the front-runner to host the GOP celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination to run for reelection, the Republican National Committee chairwoman said Wednesday.

Ronna McDaniel said reports of a final decision were “definitely premature." But she made clear that Jacksonville is the favorite now that Charlotte, North Carolina, the official host of this summer's Republican National Convention, has balked at promising Trump a full-blown convention free from social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a couple more things we need to do before we can announce that, but Jacksonville is absolutely in the front-running position,” she said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

But several Republicans familiar with the negotiations stressed that no final decision had yet been made. “Several cities are still being considered," said Emma Vaughn, a Florida-based spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. She said that convention officials were touring Phoenix; Savannah, Georgia; Dallas; and Jacksonville this week and "have been in conversations with several other potential locations.”

Nonetheless, there were indications that plans were moving forward in Jacksonville. Hotel rooms have been blocked off for late August — a week after the state’s Aug. 18 primary — intensifying speculation.

The RNC has spent the last week scouting locations after Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., rejected Trump's demand that the convention be allowed to take place Aug. 24-27 without social distancing measures.

“The governor doesn’t want to give an inch, and what he’s doing is losing hundreds of millions of dollars for his state," Trump said Wednesday at the White House. He told reporters that many states have volunteered to host, including Texas, Georgia and Florida. "I think we're going to probably end up giving you an announcement pretty soon.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in an earlier interview with Fox News Channel that Trump was “very frustrated with the politically motivated governor of North Carolina, who is not doing what’s in the best interest of his state, which is to bring economic boom and economic activity and the great resources that would come with holding a convention.”